Ten Things To Think About When Choosing a Guardian

Choosing a legal guardian is a serious matter. It is one of the most important decisions a parent or loved one can make. Guardianships are established when someone needs a representative to manage their personal and financial affairs.

A legal guardian is necessary when a person becomes incapacitated and, as a result, incapable of making important decisions for themselves. This incapacity can be due to illness, disability, or age.

Parents should choose a guardian to act in the best interest of the child if they die before their child becomes an adult. A guardian of your children will take care of your children. They will make healthcare decisions, choose an appropriate school district, and more.

General Considerations for Choosing a Guardian

Legal guardianships are established by court order. Or individuals can name a guardian in their last will and testament. This allows parents or an individual to have some choice of a guardian in advance. A durable power of attorney for health care or a durable financial power of attorney may have the same effect.

In general, courts favor guardians who are closely related to the ward. Guardians are responsible for making decisions in the ward's best interest. Planning helps ensure one's choice of guardian.

Ten Questions To Consider When Choosing a Guardian

What is the desired relationship between the ward and a legal guardian? What areas of the ward's life will the guardian have power over? Will decision-making power include financial affairs? Is there an advanced medical directive in case of hospitalization? These are a few questions to ask during the estate planning process. An individual may select a backup guardian or co-guardian if the chosen guardian cannot fulfill this role.

Here are a few more questions to consider when executing an estate plan:

  1. Does the candidate have a reputation for honesty, integrity, and timeliness? This is a big concern in the case of an estate's guardian or a child's legal guardian. The bottom line is that the chosen guardian should be trustworthy.
  2. Does the candidate have any convictions for a crime other than a minor traffic violation? Most states don't allow someone to serve as a guardian if they have a felony conviction.
  3. Has the potential guardian responsibly managed their affairs? A chosen guardian should have a track record of making good decisions. A child's legal guardian has to make decisions in the best interests of the child. A guardian of the estate has to make sound financial decisions to protect the estate.
  4. Does the candidate have educational, professional, or business experience related to performing the duties of a guardian or conservator? The guardian will handle financial matters on behalf of the ward, from real estate to paying living expenses and bills. The guardian must have the experience and skills necessary to manage these assets.
  5. Does the candidate have time to devote to the required duties? Your minor child or loved one with special needs may need more time and attention.
  6. Is the potential guardian in good health? A guardianship can last for a long time. Choose a guardian who can care for the ward over the long term. Someone not in good health may be unable to care for the ward as intended.
  7. Does the candidate have a history of substance abuse?
  8. Is the candidate likely to engender the respect, support, and cooperation of everyone affected by their decisions? The guardian must interact with various professionals when caring for a ward. The chosen guardian should be someone who can manage relationships well.
  9. Has the ward ever expressed their wishes about a potential guardian? The ward's wishes are an essential factor in making decisions.
  10. Although not required, is the potential guardian related to the ward? Does this person know the ward well enough to follow the will? It might be jarring for a child to lose a parent and have a stranger as a guardian. It also may be jarring for a person with special needs to have a stranger in charge of their needs. With advanced planning, the chosen guardian can be someone the ward knows and trusts.

Why Choose a Guardian During Estate Planning?

Many parents, especially new parents, may have concerns about what will happen to their children if they die or become incapacitated. They might have specific religious beliefs, parenting styles, or a child with special needs. They may want their child educated in a particular school district. A surviving parent may become incapacitated.

If parents die without having a named guardian, a probate court will appoint a guardian. Their child will not be guaranteed to be raised and educated in the way they want. The court will look to blood relatives, other family members, or extended family members. Close friends may be far down the court's list. With the advice of an estate planning attorney, parents can choose a guardian or backup guardian. They can have peace of mind about their child's well-being.

A suitable guardian can make a big difference in their child's future. Choosing a legal guardian during estate planning is also beneficial for individuals. Estate planning is a time when people are thinking about their futures. They are planning for things like death or incapacity.

Estate planning is not limited to life insurance in the event of your death. Choosing a guardian in advance ensures that the correct person will handle personal affairs if you become incapacitated. Your legal guardian will make choices about your health care and financial matters. They will make decisions about your medical care. Making plans in advance, with legal advice, can help you have peace of mind about your future.

An estate planning attorney can help you create a plan that works for you. Individuals can outline their wishes with tools such as a will, a durable power of attorney, or a medical directive. An individual can also define the guardian's powers. There are many different types of guardianships. When you plan, you can select the type of guardianship that fits best.

Have Additional Questions About Choosing a Guardian? Ask an Attorney

Although you may not feel that you need to, choosing a guardian is crucial in planning for the future. If you have questions about who you should pick as a guardian or need help drafting legal documents, consult a qualified estate planning attorney in your area.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Guardianship is always a court process
  • An attorney can help file a guardianship petition and represent your interests
  • Legal advice during the planning, court processes, and interviews is helpful
  • Your attorney can help you understand the final decision from the court

Get tailored advice for becoming or appointing a legal guardian. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new guardianship arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions. It takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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