If you are a parent of a minor child, your guardianship planning is probably the most important element of your estate plan. All parents want to ensure that their children are cared for by someone who loves them, will nurture them, and help raise them according to your values.
In California, a court proceeding is required to make the guardianship formal, even when there is an Estate Plan. I can help ease the process by representing the proposed guardians.
How do I ensure my children are taken care of?
In California, there are two types of guardians – a guardian of the person and a guardian of the estate. Guardians of the person are appointed to take care of a child whose parents can no longer do so. A guardian of the person (or as I like to refer to them, “guardian of the child”) is only appointed if both parents are unable to care for their children. The guardian of the child is going to “step into the shoes” of the parents and raise the child. This is the person who will have custody of your child and take care of your child until age eighteen. Any interested party can file a petition in the probate court to become appointed as guardian of the children.
By electing a Guardian (or two) to care for your children during the estate planning process, you can have the peace of mind that the judge will know your preferences. You will have peace of mind that your nominations will be taken into serious consideration by the judge. Nominating guardians is a difficult decision to make but so very important.
During estate planning, you will also be encouraged to appoint temporary guardians for those times when neither parent can get back to their children. Think of these persons as your emergency contact. The temporary guardians should be close to home so they can get to your children quickly before protective services must take your children into protective custody. A temporary guardian can be an adult who can keep the children safe for a few days until your named guardians can arrive.
Getting appointed as guardian
Thinking about raising someone else’s children stops us all in our tracks. It feels like a heavy burden to bear but it also feels like something you must do. If you have been named as a guardian in the Will of the children’s parent and the children’s other parent is unable or unwilling to care for the children, you can petition the court to become their guardian.
If you are prepared to provide for the children’s general welfare, education, and medical needs, I can represent you in a petition to be appointed their guardian.
Who takes care of the money I leave to my children?
As parents, you will want to make sure that your children's financial future is protected so that there are sufficient funds for raising your children and for sending them to college, amongst other things. Designating a guardian to be responsible for your child(ren)'s inheritance will ensure their financial needs are safeguarded. This person, a "guardian of the estate," may or may not be the same person who has custody of your children.
Fortunately, estate planning can by-pass the need to ask the probate court to appoint a guardian of the estate because the money you leave to your children will be held by the Trust and the Successor Trustee can take care the of the children's money.
Important things to consider when choosing a guardian
Who else loves your children unconditionally?
Who will empower your children to live their best life?
Who has a family most like yours?
How is the health of your proposed guardian?
What is your proposed guardian's lifestyle like?
Is religion important? What is the nominee's religion?
What is the proposed guardian's family life like? Do they have a family who will welcome your child?
What did your proposed guardian say when you discussed nominating them as guardian?