As a parent, choosing a guardian is perhaps the most important thing you will do while estate planning. Guardianship involves an adult who is not a child’s parent assuming legal authority for that child. Planning ahead to select the guardian for your children now will benefit your children if anything ever happens to you while they are still minors.
A guardian can fulfill the same responsibilities you do as a parent, giving your children love and support until they reach adulthood. Taking the time to choose someone capable of stepping up for your children will protect them if the unthinkable occurs to you.
There are two kinds of probate guardianship in California, and it’s important that you understand both of them when making decisions about whom to name as a guardian for your minor children in your will.
Guardianship of the person
When someone assumes the guardianship of a person, they have the same obligations and rights that a parent would. They can make decisions about a child’s health care and education.
They have an obligation to meet a child’s basic needs, even if the parents did not leave enough of an inheritance to pay the child’s daily cost of living expenses. Just like a parent, they have to meet a certain standard regarding the care that they provide for the children or potentially risk state involvement and the termination of their authority.
Guardianship of the estate
If you have invested in life insurance or have significant personal property, your children may inherit valuable assets, such as financial accounts and even real estate, when you die.
If you don’t add a trust to your estate plan, the guardian for your children will also potentially have guardianship of the estate. They will have control over the management. That might mean that they misuse those assets if you aren’t careful about how you structure the estate and whom you name as guardian. You can potentially name different people to serve as guardian of your children and guardian of the estate.
Learning about the two different roles a guardian can fulfill for your family will lead to an easier time planning your estate for the protection of your children.