Selecting a Guardian for Your Minor ChildrenAccording to a recent survey, only 36% of U.S. parents with minor children have a will. This means that 64% of children do not have a legal guardian selected for them by their parents in the event of the unexpected. Instead, these children will be the subject of guardianship proceedings by the state court system and social services department. In the same way that parents aim to protect their children during life, parents should act to avoid such circumstances and instead ensure their children are well taken care of in the event something where to happen to them.
Choosing a guardian can be overwhelming. Many couples have not finalized their will and estate plans simply because they cannot agree on a guardian. Parents should not delay for this reason. Parents should think about what qualities are most important to them in a possible future caretaker for their children. Consider the following questions:
- Who will love your children in your absence?
- Who will afford your children a safe, stable environment?
- Are there social or religious qualities that are important to you?
- Where do you want your children to live and be raised?
- Who has qualities you respect and admire and would want passed on to your children?
- Would a family member or close friend be a better caretaker?
- Who would honor your memory?
Importantly, parents should identify 2 or 3 possible guardians, to ensure a back-up plan in the event one or more guardians are unable or unwilling to act as guardian. After you’ve agreed on a list of possible guardians, schedule a time to talk to each person about the issue of guardianship. Tell them: “We are meeting with our attorney to work on our estate plans and would like to talk to you about a few issues that are important to us.”
When you’re ready to have that conversation, here are some issues you should cover:
- The ask: “We’ve thought a lot about the type of person/family we’d like to help raise our children in the event we were to pass away unexpectedly. We would be honored if you would consider acting as guardian of our children.” Let them know if there are family, religious, emotional, social, or other reasons that were important to you in selecting them as a possible guardian. You can also let them know if there are qualities or beliefs you hope they pass on to your children.
- The arrangements you’ve made: “We’re meeting with our estate planning attorney to finalize ours wills/trust. We intend to make sure you are provided with the necessary finances to care for our children.” You may want to mention if you’ve purchase life insurance or have set up trusts to assist them financially. You can also discuss if you will allow them the choice to live in your home while they are raising your children.
- Give them time: “We know this is a big responsibility. Please think about it and let us know if you will act as guardian.” Tell them when your next meeting with your attorney is and ask that they get back to you by then.
Contributing Attorney: Allison Kierman is an attorney at Kierman Law, PLC where she provides assistance with estate planning and business consulting.
I want to enroll my little sisters in school, our mother is in Mexico but they won't let me enroll them. My sisters are u.s. citizens my mother is not. She gave me a power of attorney letter giving me right to take care of them. It was notorized in Mexico but they still won't let me enroll them. What do I need?
My son was placed in guardianship approximately 5 yrs ago. recently he (16) has expressed desire to return to living with me as he no longer feels safe or wanted at grandmas who has guardianship. He has threatened to run away many times. Frequently asks me to get him away from there as he is told almost daily that he needs them, they don't need him or that he will be sent to fostercare if he keeps on going way he is. Also that he will never be able to return to live with me again. (my rights were not terminated). What do I need to do to end the guardianship so he can come back to live with me?
my son an daughter-in-law died over 9 years ago,i have been taking care of my grandchild for all these years never got guardianship what do i do
Our parents passed away two months ago and in their Will they appointed me guardian of my fourteen year old, half sister. Her grandparents don't like me and want to gain custody of her. Their son always said he never wants them to have my sister because of how he was raised. Our parent's assets are split between us so I will be able to take care of her until she comes of age to get her half. Please help. I can't get through this hard time without her with me.
My daughter is 12 she ws 11 wen her dad passed away he is on BC we were not married, he has proprty tat ws sold I hv to initiate conservationship on her behalf to set up trust, do I hv to apply to be approve or am I'm automatically approved becuz I'm her mother? I cant afford a high price lawyer is there free legal asst tat can assist me in this process?
my sons grandma has gardianship of my son i still have my rights as a mother to legally be able to see him she cant keep him from me can she
My husband and I have had our grandson since last November. My daughter doesn't make time for her son. She is willing give legal guardianship of my grandson. What do we need to do ?
My granddaughter's aunt is in the process of getting guardianship of her . Currently her and her husband have temp guardianship for 6 months. I want to take my granddaughter to disneyland for a long weekend but the granddaughter's aunt says that the court has to approve her leaving the state first . Is this true ?
How do I obtain Guardianship of my minor cousins when mother and grandparents are deceased and fathers are not known. I live in Phoenix arizona and they reside in San Diego California?
what is the name of the form that must be filled out annually by the guardian of a minor child?
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