Educating Clients on the Guardianship Process
Everyone can benefit from an estate plan, but for those who have minor children or those with special needs who are dependent on their care, it’s crucial to plan ahead for the future. A guardianship lawyer can help ensure that your wishes are known when it comes to who you would like to be appointed as a guardian in the event that you die before your children turn 18 and are able to directly inherit your estate.
Protect the financial interests of your minor children or special needs loved one when you work with a guardianship attorney to set up a guardianship as part of your estate plan. The team at MMZ Law has experience helping clients through a variety of circumstances that may require a guardianship. Contact our firm to find out more about how we can help.
What Does Guardianship Entail?
When someone assumes legal guardianship over a child or other dependent — known as the ward — they are responsible for providing for the ward’s needs. That may include taking on direct care duties, such as providing housing, food, and clothes and acting as the legal guardian for school and court purposes.
Or it can involve acting as a financial guardian, overseeing their inheritance until the ward is able to take ownership when they become an adult. Guardianship is an area that can involve both family law and probate law, depending on the case, so it’s always a good idea to discuss your needs and plan with an attorney.
What Are the Two Types of Guardianship?
A legal guardianship can involve either the care of the ward or the care of their inheritance. It’s possible for a different guardian to be appointed for the person and the estate, or one person can serve both roles. Below is a breakdown of the two types of guardianships in California and what they involve.
Guardianship of the Person
Legal guardianship of a person happens when a child’s biological parents either die or are no longer able to care for them. A guardian is appointed and given legal custody over the child, which includes meeting their needs and providing for the child’s welfare. The guardian has the power to make important decisions about the child’s care, including the child’s education and medical care.
A biological parent is able to note who they want to be guardian of their child in their will. As long as the person is willing to take on the role, the courts are likely to follow the parent’s wishes. If there are issues, such as if the named guardian has passed away and the will wasn’t updated to appoint someone else, the family law courts will decide who should be appointed guardian. In the interim, it’s possible that the child might have to go into the foster care system or live with a close relative. This is why it’s important to ensure that your will and your wishes regarding guardianship are always up to date.
Guardianship of the Estate
Legal guardianship of the estate refers to someone who is appointed to manage the financial affairs of the minor child. This can include investing the child’s property and using inheritance funds to pay for expenses, such as school supplies. When the child turns 18, they will be given control over their finances and be able to make all legal decisions for themselves.
How Do the Courts Decide Who to Appoint as Guardian?
If the child’s parents die without putting their preference for a guardian in their will, the court appoints someone to take on the role. In general, family members who have had an active role in the child’s life are given first preference if they are willing and able to assume guardianship. Otherwise, the child may be placed in foster care until and unless a kinship guardian is available.
Why Do I Need a Guardianship Attorney?
Choosing someone to take over the care of your child is a big decision, and it’s one that should be done with the utmost care and attention. Many people choose immediate family members, such as a grandparent or aunt, but it’s important to consider all factors when deciding who should obtain guardianship. A guardianship attorney has the unique perspective of helping dozens of clients with these kinds of legal issues, which means they can help you anticipate issues you may not be aware of and proactively address them.
For those who believe that an appointed guardian isn’t fulfilling their obligations or isn’t the best choice to care for the ward, a guardianship attorney can explain what options may be available to petition for a change in guardianship.
When Does a Guardianship End?
In general, a guardianship ends when a minor child turns 18 and reaches adulthood. In cases where the guardianship involves someone with special needs who will always need care, the guardianship may never come to an end. A guardianship for a minor child can also be ended by removing the current guardian and appointing someone else to take over. This is usually dealt with in the family law courts and can happen if the guardian no longer wants to have responsibility for the child or isn’t acting in the child’s best interests.
When you’re creating your estate plan, ensure that you discuss what provisions your minor children need and how to ensure everything is set up legally with a guardianship attorney. Schedule a consultation with a guardianship lawyer by calling MMZ Law at 909-347-7444. Our team serves Claremont, Los Angeles County, and the surrounding areas and can help with all of your estate planning needs.