If you have children, especially younger ones, much of your life revolves around them. Not only do you provide their food, clothing, and shelter but you are there for every moment of their lives, big or small. As any parent would, you want the best for them. No parent wants to think about what would happen to their child or children if they couldn’t be there for them. As unpleasant as the thought is, it’s an important decision all parents should make. What would you do to provide for your children if you suddenly became unable to?
There are several steps you can take to ensure your children are taken care of if you can no longer provide for them. One step to take is to appoint a legal guardian. This is a crucial decision for you, your child, and the person you choose. There are several things to consider when appointing a guardian for your child.
What is a Guardian?
According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of Administration for Children and Families (ACF), “legal guardianship is one of the options available to parents who are planning for the care of their children in their absence due to a variety of situations, such as illness or incarceration.”
Legal guardianship may be assigned by the courts, often family court, by the laws of the state of the parents’ residence.
A guardian is a caregiver that is given special rights over the children, depending on the circumstances surrounding their appointment. In most cases, the parents still retain legal rights and authority over their children, such as when a parent is terminally ill, or disabled. In the case of the death of both parents, a guardian is appointed either by the courts or the parents before their deaths, to care for their children until they are 18.
Why Appoint a Guardian?
You want to be there to raise your children, but if circumstances happen, who would you trust to fulfill your wishes for them? Working with a guardianship attorney, you can have legal documents in place to appoint a guardian before a tragedy happens. If you die without legal guardianship in place, your children may be put into foster care designated by the courts.
One way to appoint a guardian is by including a guardianship clause in your will. Naming a guardian in your will tells the court after your death your wishes for your children. Whether you reside together or not, both parents should have the same guardian appointed in each will. Include an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable to care for your children. An appointment for each child should be listed separately. Also, consider adding a clause if you want your children to be able to stay together.
Choosing the criteria for a Guardian
When choosing a guardian, it’s important to consider all aspects of your children’s lives. This can include how your children will change as they grow. Will your choice for caregiver be able to handle a toddler as well as a teenager? Do their goals and lifestyles fit your choice for your children now and in the future? If you are active in your church, will they make sure your children continue to attend?
Also, consider your guardian’s age and health. If you have young children, you want someone who can physically care for them. An older individual may not be able to attend to a baby or a toddler. They also may not have the years left to be there for them until they reach the age of 18.
Estate Planning and Appointing a Guardian
The best way to cover all your children’s needs if you passed away, is to put together a finance and estate plan during your life. This will ensure your wishes for your children’s well-being are being carried out. An estate planning lawyer can guide you through the necessary documents for your finances and appoint a guardian for your children.
When you have children, you have to plan for different aspects of their future. Choosing someone to care for them if you died is an essential decision to make. Creating an estate plan with guardianship can ease your mind.
There are many things to consider when appointing a guardian for your child. Having the legal documents in place can ensure that if you are no longer able to care for them, they will be well taken care of according to your wishes, not the courts.