What is a guardian?

A guardian is a person that becomes the legal caregiver for a minor child in the event that the child’s parent dies.

Does an estate plan address guardianship?

If an individual has children, his or her estate plan can and should account for the guardianship of minority children.  Guardianship can be under certain specified situations or triggering events.  EPM’s estate planning packages allow the user to address guardianship of minor children.  

Can I appoint a legal guardian for my children in the event that I die?

Yes, and doing so is one of the cornerstones of estate planning for parents with minor children.

What happens if the parents of a minor child die without appointing a guardian?

Although the thought of dying and leaving your children can be a disturbing thought, failing to appoint a guardian can be devastating.  A deceased parent who leaves behind a surviving spouse will usually be able to expect that the spouse will take care of the child. When both parents die, having a pre-designated guardian, and a backup successor guardian, is especially critical. Otherwise, children may be placed in foster care, and even if not, the children are far more likely to end up in the custody of someone that may not share the parents’ values, beliefs, or vision for their child’s upbringing.

How can a parent appoint a guardian?

As a parent, you can designate a guardian for your minor children in the event of your death.  If no guardian is appointed, a judge will need to make the decision of appointing a willing guardian.  To avoid this situation, it is generally common practice for parents to designate both a primary guardian and an alternative guardian in their will.  

What are the roles and responsibilities for which a guardian responsible in relation to a minor child?

A guardian is responsible for the dame care as a parent, namely for the child’s health, physical and emotional care, welfare, and education.  Some examples include providing for basic needs such as food, shelter, schooling, clothing, and other primary needs. The financial costs of the child typically fall to a trustee or executor that id handling the money provided in the parent’s estate for the child’s care.  

If one parent dies, does the other parent automatically become the guardian of their minor children?

In most instances, if one parent dies, the other parent will immediately assume guardianship without any other special steps.  Even so, it is important to designate an additional successor guardian in the event that both parents die or the surviving parent is deemed unfit or is unwilling to assume this role.  

What are some of the age considerations when picking a guardian?

A guardian must be at least eighteen years old, but this requirement alone should not be the only factor you consider.  The person you choose should also have skills necessary to perform the guardianship role diligently and successfully, and an interest in doing so.  Grandparents are often a common choice, but you should consider whether these older individuals will have the physical and mental capacity to fill the role of a guardian. Older siblings may qualify technically, but may not be able to actively meet the needs of minor siblings.  Additionally, even when an older sibling can fulfill this role, you need to consider whether it is in the best interests of the older sibling to act as the guardian for a minor sibling. Will the older sibling need to forego critical educational or career opportunities in order to act as a suitable guardian?  Does the guardian candidate have similar beliefs and values to you? These questions about similarity of values and beliefs include religious beliefs, as well as beliefs in work ethics, education, and personal values.

Are guardians paid for acting as the guardian?

A guardian is not paid for fulfilling its duties as a guardian