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A Guide For Appointing A Guardian For Your Children.

Appointing a Guardian For Your Children Is Hard.
Still It Must Be Done -- You Owe It To Your Children.
So Let Us Help You Get It Done!

No matter what decision you make, it will be better than that of a judge that doesn’t know your family.

Legal Guardianship in California:

Many parents don’t appoint a legal guardian for their children, because they can’t decide who to appoint. They know a legal guardian protects children in case their parents die or become unable to care for them, but the parents feel overwhelmed trying to make such a decision. Don’t worry, this is normal. Nevertheless it is something that you really need to do.

What you might forget is: Not Choosing IS choosing. Because if you don’t appoint a guardian for your children, the Probate Court will appoint a legal guardian for your children instead. No matter what decision you make, it will probably be better than that of a judge that doesn’t know you, your children, your extended family, or your friends.

How Do I Choose a Legal Guardian for My Children: A Guide

In our estate law office, we encourage you to appoint a guardian for children in your will. It is included, at no extra charge, as a part of any Estate Plan that we prepare for you. We will also advise you on protecting your children’s assets until they are old enough to make wise choices on their own.

As someone who trained and worked for years with children and adolescents, and who raised children and step-children, our estate planning attorney, Alex Wyman has come up with a few things you might want to consider in appointing a guardian for your children in California.

  1. First and foremost is love. No one will love your children like you do, but if your children lose you, they need to be surrounded by as much love and understanding as possible. When you appoint a guardian, do not underestimate this criterion! A loving grandparent can hire a nanny or cleaning help (using funds you have left for their care, including life insurance), but an uninterested distant relative, unknown to your child, will take time to bond with your child, no matter how young and healthy he may be.
  2. Age and Health. That said, think about whether the person you choose as your children’s guardian is likely to be healthy and alive for the 18 years that your child will need them.
  3. Relationship. Simply put, do your children and the prospective legal guardian get along? Do your children get along with their children? Do they respect each other? Remember though, you don’t want a “pal” for your children, you want someone who can set reasonable limits.
  4. Parenting Style. This is both a tangible and intangible quality to consider when you appoint a legal guardian for your child. The tangible is basic — what are the family rules and how are they enforced? Does the family use corporeal/physical punishment? How much time do they spend interacting with their children? How much television do the children watch? What kind of rules do they have about homework, school work, tattoos, parties, drinking, etc.  The intangible is about how they “feel” around children.  Do you get the sense that they like children and are comfortable setting limits? Are they able to admit their own mistakes and learn from them? Do not underestimate your “gut reaction.”
  5. Location. Where does the prospected child guardian live? Would the children have to move far from their friends? Be near or far from other family? In a safe area for children? In a good school district?
  6. Energy Level. Legal guardianship essentially means becoming a parent. Does this person have the energy to add this “job” to their plate? On the other hand, as we said above, remember that you can provide the means to pay for extra help, if the person you choose is otherwise are the best guardian.
  7. Religion. Is this an important consideration for the legal guardian of your child?
  8. Other children in the family. Do your children get along with theirs? Are you comfortable with the way their children are turning out?
  9. Mutuality. Would you consider being the legal guardian for their children? If not, why not?
  10. Education. Educational issues run the gamut from where one lives, to educational philosophy.
  11. a. Do they live in the same school district? A good school district?

    b. Do you have roughly similar views on education? No two sets of parents are going to fully agree on such things, but if your child wants to be a carpenter, and the guardian thinks every child should go to a U.C., you could have a problem.

  12. See Number One Above.  First and Foremost is Love