If you and your spouse should die unexpectedly, who would become the guardian for your child? Parents need to give this some serious thought, then name the guardian of their choice when they prepare their will.
When the court acts
If you die without naming a guardian for your child, the court will appoint someone. A grandparent or other family member may petition the court for either temporary or permanent guardianship. The court will take certain circumstances into consideration:
- That the child has been placed with a relative who is the potential guardian
- That it is likely the child will remain with that relative for an extended period, or until he or she turns 18
- That if appointed, the relative serve as guardian for an extended period, or until the child turns 18
Guardian of the Person
Two types of guardians for minor children exist: the Guardian of the Person and the Guardian of the Estate. The former is responsible for deciding where a child will live based on the child’s best interests. This guardian also chooses schools and helps the student achieve educational goals. He or she becomes responsible for the child’s medical, dental and mental health needs.
Guardian of the Estate
This person keeps an inventory of the assets you pass on to your child, as well as their value and location. The Guardian of the Estate files annual reports informing the court of income, expenses, investments and the overall value of the estate. This guardian manages the assets responsibly and pays debts and expenses for the child, including education and medical costs.
One person can be both the Guardian of the Person and the Guardian of the Estate, if you so choose. The guardian should be someone you trust and someone who agrees to care for your child just as you would. Make sure the person you select and name in your will is willing and able to take on the job. It is a big responsibility.