While most of us would of course prefer that our children live with us, there are cases where children must be looked after by somebody other than their parents. Generally, this person is a court-appointed legal guardian. Guardians can be appointed by naming an individual in your will.
Not every person is the right choice to act as a guardian for young children. That’s why we’re going to look at how to choose a guardian for your child here in Minnesota. We’ll first start by looking at the duties of a guardian — any person you choose for this role will need to perform these. After that, we’ll look at some tips for picking a guardian, before closing out with a quick look at some of the mistakes people make when picking a guardian for their child.
What is a Guardian’s Duties?
A guardian is somebody that is put in charge of taking care of a child’s needs. These needs include shelter, education, food, and medical care. A guardian is also typically expected to watch over a child’s finances.
Most often, a guardianship over a minor continues until:
- The child reaches the legal age of majority, 18 in most states
- A judge determines that the guardianship is either no longer necessary or no longer beneficial for the child
- The purpose of the guardianship was to manage the child’s finances and those financial assets have been exhausted
- The guardian has asked the court to relieve them of the guardianship (at which point the court will appoint a new guardian)
The duties of a guardian are similar to the duties of a parent. Guardians have the additional task of making an annual report that includes:
- Personal Well-Being Reports
- Annual Notice of Right to Petition for Termination or Modification
- Bill of Rights
- Affidavits of Service
These reports will let the court keep up to date with how the guardianship is going. These reports are generally straight-forward and do not take much time to prepare.
How Do You Decide On a Guardian?
As you can imagine, it is almost impossible to give a short and sweet answer to the question, “Who should I pick to be my child’s guardian?” Every family and every child has unique needs and circumstances. Instead of saying “just pick your brother” or “a family friend is a good idea,” we’ll answer the question in a slightly different manner.
Consider the following tips when you are considering an individual for this important role:
- Ask the Child’s Opinion: If your child is old enough to have an opinion on the matter, ask them about it. The best answer might be the individual the child gets along with best.
Speak to the Guardian: You can name somebody in your will without ever speaking to them about it. Seem weird? It would be. It’s always best that a potential guardian knows they might be called on for this important job.
- Consider Friends: Most people will first consider family members to be guardians. But some of us just don’t have family members we feel we can rely on. Don’t worry, a friend can be just as good or even a better choice for the guardian of your child.
- Name a Backup: If your first choice is unable (or unwilling) to accept, then having a backup will allow the process to move along faster. A backup also likely means the court doesn’t need to get involved in appointing a guardian (which could lead to many complications).
- Take Your Time: Don’t rush. Take your time, speak with potential guardians, speak with your child, and really give the issue some serious consideration. You can always change your mind later, too … your will can be changed any time you wish!
What Mistakes Do People Make When Choosing a Guardian?
There are some things you will want to avoid when making this important decision:
- Not Thinking Long-Term: You can’t know the future, so you can’t know that your first choice is going to be correct. That is why a backup guardian is so important, but additionally, remember to check your plans once a year to ensure that your past decisions still remain true today.
- Not Providing Details: Though certainly not a requirement, you can leave detailed instructions about decisions for the child’s future, such as what school you want them to attend or in which religion you would like them to be raised. Details like these can help ensure that your child is raised as you wanted them to be, even if you can’t be there to see it.
- Choosing Somebody to Appease Family Members: The person you pick should be the right choice, not just the choice you were guilted into picking by your relatives.
- Leaving It Up to the Court: If you ignore the question of who would be guardian to your child should something happen to you, the courts will make this decision without your input. Make sure your child is raised with your values by selecting a guardian.
- Picking Elderly Guardians: Our parents raised us, so picking them would seem to make sense. But older individuals may not be able to (or wish to) keep up with all that is needed to raise a young child. Consider how old your parents will be by the time the child turns 18 and you might see why it’s a bad choice.
What If I Still Don’t Know Who to Pick to Be a Guardian?
Reach out to Stone Arch Law Office. Our attorneys can work with you to select a guardian and create the perfect plan so you don’t have to worry about what will happen to your children should something happen to you.