Adult & Minor Guardianship
The process of becoming a guardian for a minor differs from an adult. Plainly, a minor guardianship applies to a ward that is less than 18 years old. These appointments usually start in a parent’s Will. In the event of unexpected death or incapacity of the parents, the Will nominates guardians for any minor children. The nominated guardian must still follow the Guardianship Proceedings, and has the duty of regularly reporting to the court.
In the absence of clear guidance in a Will, someone will need to petition the court for the minor(s) guardianship. Friends and family are good candidates, but ultimately need to be vetted by the court. In order to complete their judgement, the court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate the ward’s situation. If no one steps up to be the guardian of the minor, the child will become a ward of the state.
With thorough Estate Planning, providing for your minor children becomes much more precise. Not only will you need a trusted guardian to care for them, but also you want to ensure the assets you set aside for them are protected. Creating specific use Trusts can create another level oversight to prevent misuse. These situations become more complicated with disabled children due to higher care standards. In addition, a capable attorney must protect all qualifying state benefits that the disabled child receives.
The most common need for an adult guardianship is disability. The legal term, “disabled person”, is defined as someone who is 18 years of age or older that is not able to fully manage his or her person or estate. The cause of disability varies, including but not limited to developmental issues, mental or physical incapacity, drug or gambling addiction, and child birth defects.
As a guardian, you must regularly communicate with the court. You will need to obtain permission from the court for major decisions, such as relocating the ward into a residential facility. Also, you must file written reports describing the ward’s current condition, living arrangements, and your interactions with the ward. Again, acting as a guardian is a major responsibility. Any and all actions taken must be to contribute to the well-being of the ward.
If the ward became disabled as an adult but had comprehensive Powers of Attorney, the Guardianship Proceedings become much easier. In the case of a disabled minor, special precautions and planning must be done before the ward becomes an adult.