Probably the biggest reason parents of minor children want to do Wills is to name guardians for their children. Every parent wants to have the power to pick who they want to raise their children in case they pass away.
In Georgia, when one parent passes away, guardianship goes to the other parent, even if the other parent doesn’t have custody, and even if the deceased parent named someone else as guardian in his or her Will. When both parents pass away, if the parent named a guardian in a Will, and if that guardian is willing and able to serve, he or she is appointed as guardian without a hearing in most cases.
However, obviously not all parents do Wills naming guardians for their children. In that case, if something happened to both parents, the probate court in the county of residence for the parents would have a guardianship hearing to name guardians for the children. Typically, one family member or friend will file a petition with the probate court to serve as guardian, and anyone who objects or wishes to be named as guardian can file an objection. If a minor is over the age of 14, the court will take the minor’s preferences into consideration when choosing the guardian. If the child doesn’t have a preference, the court will look to a biological relative (typically a parent of the deceased first, followed by a sibling of the deceased), then any other adult relative of the minor, then any other adults who are related to the minor by marriage.
Obviously, it’s best to make your wishes about guardianship of your children known in your Will, rather than by potentially having them raised by someone who wasn’t your first choice, or potentially subjecting them to an emotional court battle. If you’re in north Georgia, including Marietta, Canton, Kennesaw, Woodstock, Acworth, Cartersville, Smyrna, or Roswell, call Sarah White, guardianship attorney, at 678-453-6490. Call me to learn more.
I get this question a lot. Yes, if you are going to be going out of town without your kids, and you are leaving your kids in the care of another person or persons, I recommend that you complete a basic temporary guardianship form. The form will serve as a notice that your kids are authorized to be under the care of another person. The form typically also consents to medical care for your children. If you are going out of town and need such a form, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to email you a blank form free of charge.
This temporary guardianship form is very different from issues that arise in other circumstances. For instance, you will name a guardian for your children in your will – this will tell who you want to raise your children in the event that something happens to both parents. There are also standby guardianship forms that can be of use to single parents in the event the parent becomes incapacitated. Finally, some parents of special needs children need to seek a guardianship over that child when the child turns 18 in order to continue making legal decisions for that child.
Do you have a potential guardianship issue that you need to speak to a Georgia attorney about? Call Sarah White, Marietta guardianship attorney at 678-453-6490 or email me at email@example.com. I would be happy to speak with you about those issues.
One of the most difficult decisions for many of my clients with minor children is choosing who their guardians will be. After all, guardians will be responsible for most of the decisions of their children, if something should happen to both parents. Typically, naming a guardian is done in a will. Upon your death, the person you named in the will doesn’t actually become legal guardian until approved by a court. Therefore, your choice isn’t automatically binding. However, if no one contests your choice of guardian, the court will confirm the guardian you chose.
It’s important when you are choosing a guardian for your children that you talk it over with the person and get their complete approval – that is not something that should be a surprise. You should also name alternate guardians as well. When choosing a guardian, pick someone who would raise your children in the manner in which you wish them to be raised. You may want to choose someone who’s familiar with your extended family, as that could help them maintain close relationships with your extended family. You may have a perfect candidate in mind, but there’s one problem – they aren’t very good with money. Don’t let that stop you from naming them as guardian. You can choose someone else as trustee to manage the kids’ money.
Many people choose to name a married couple as co-guardians. That is fine, but you may wish to specify in your will what happens if they are no longer married at the time of your death. You may wish for only one of them to serve, or you may want your children raised by a different married couple instead. Make sure your wishes are spelled out in your will.
These decisions are never easy, but an experienced estate planning attorney can help you talk through them and reach a decision that’s best for your family. If you are in the metro Atlanta area, call Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490.
According to this article, Diana Ross, who was named as an alternate guardian for Michael Jackson’s kids in his will, was not aware she was named and was none too pleased about the possibility of raising his kids.
When clients ask me if they should tell their heirs about the details of their estate planning, I tell them that someone should know where the documents are located, but as far as where the assets are going, use their own judgment depending on family circumstances.
However, any potential guardian of any minor children named in your will should definitely be aware of, and agree to, the possibility. This includes alternate guardians. You need to ensure they are willing and able to serve as guardians. You will probably want to talk to them, leave written instructions, or both, about how you want your children raised, including subjects like where they will live, discipline, education, finances, religion, etc. You do not want to surprise any future guardian of your children after you’re gone.
Natasha Richardson, a beautiful, talented actress and a mother of two, died last month after a fall at a ski resort. She was 45 at the time of her death. She was a loving wife to her husband of 14 years, Liam Neeson, and a devoted mother to her two sons, ages 13 and 12.
Her death came as a shock to her fans and those in the acting community. I hope it also serves as an example to us that no matter how invincible we feel, we never know what the future holds. You should prepare for your future, and that includes executing estate planning documents that cover what happens to your assets and your children, among other things, upon your death. In addition, it’s also important to let your wishes be known to your family regarding organ donation, burial vs. cremation, funeral wishes, etc. Although these aren’t fun things to talk about, imagine your family trying to guess what you might have wanted at one of the saddest times of their lives. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about those issues, consider leaving a letter listing your basic wishes. I have a letter I give to clients to help with those matters. I would be happy to email you a copy if you drop me a line.