Is a Guardian Needed For My Children?
Estate planning for young parents usually has more to do with who will take care of their minor children than it is about who to leave their estate to. Naming a guardian in your will ensures that you make that choice and not the probate courts.
When you have minor children, it is essential for parents to have this estate planning tool in place, even if you have few financial assets. A guardian is someone you will name in your will who, should both parents die, will have custody of your children, manage the financial assets and property of the children, or both.
Protection For Minor Children
When both parents die, California probate courts will need to intercede to name someone who they feel can best take care of the children. But most parents don’t want this decision left up to the court. Most parents will want to take great care in who they name as the guardian for their children and discuss their decision with this party to ensure that that person is also agreeable.
If a guardian hasn’t been named in a will, the court will choose one. Although it will commonly be a family member, some family members are not always the best choices or equally responsible. There may be certain family members that you would not want to raise your children. Unfortunately, the court will not know this when making their decision.
Two Types of Guardianship
There are two specific types of probate guardianship. One is a guardianship of the person, and the other is guardianship of the estate.
- The guardianship of the person names someone who will have all the responsibilities of caring for the children the parents would have, including legal and physical custody of them. They can make all important decisions regarding their food, clothing and shelter, safety, medical and dental care, education, and other needs. They will also be held liable for anything the children do, the same as parents.
- A guardianship of the estate names someone who will be responsible for managing any of the financial assets and matters for the children until they turn eighteen. This guardianship is particularly important when the children have inherited any money, life insurance proceeds, or other assets when the parents have died. Not only must this individual manage all the children’s money and property, but they are also responsible for making prudent investments to benefit the children’s future.
Access to Financial Assistance After You Are Gone
While you may have provided financially for your children in your life insurance policy, minor children do not have access to these financial benefits as minors without the assistance of a guardian.
You may have provided for your children by naming them as beneficiaries in your life insurance policy, but they have no access to this money as minors. In California, minor children cannot receive proceeds from life insurance even if they are named as beneficiaries on the policy. Once children come of age, they will then have access to the life insurance funds being held for them. Unfortunately, most eighteen-year-olds have little financial experience, and having access to a sudden large amount of money is usually not a good idea.
These are critical matters to consider when naming a guardian. The person you name as guardian of the estate should have a good understanding of finances and investments in order to make the best possible financial decisions for the children and ensure that the money is going to serve the children’s best interests and be there for their future.
The Important Advantages to Naming a Guardian in a Will
In the event that you and your spouse die, having a will in place naming a guardian makes the decision yours and not the court’s. This provides
- Protection for your children
- Peace of mind for you and your spouse
- The ability for you to designate someone who you personally consider the best choice for your children.
- The elimination of any family conflicts in the physical care and financial management of funds belonging to your children. Many cases have been on the books when both sets of grandparents have sued for guardianship, causing a great deal of family distress.
Without the designation of a guardian, children can be placed in vulnerable positions. Once the court gets involved, fulfilling guardianship responsibilities can take a great deal of time. In the meantime, children can be left in uncertain situations during a very challenging and fragile time.
Getting Skilled Advice in Santa Ana Before Naming a Guardian
Having a will naming a guardian is something all young parents should consider. You should take a great deal of care when selecting a guardian for your children, whether it be a close family member or even a family friend.
Getting the guidance of a skilled Santa Ana guardian attorney can help you make the right decisions for your family and your children’s future when designating a guardian. At the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai we can help guide and advise you to ensure that you are considering all matters when choosing a guardian for your minor children. Call us at (714) 694-1200 or contact us through our online contact page to schedule a consultation.