Six Common Mistakes When Naming a Guardian

caregiverNaming guardians for children can be one of the harder things that parents have to do.  Following are some common mistakes when naming a guardian:

1.  Not Naming “First Responders”

The naming of first responders is something that should be taken into consideration every time a child is left in the care of someone other than a parent.  What is the babysitter supposed to do if their charges parents do not come home, and they are unable to reach them?  Do NOT call the police!  This may seem like the thing to do, however the police will take the children into custody and place them in the care of an emergency facility.

Parents should name a temporary guardian to take custody until the permanent guardian(s) are available.  A temporary guardian should live close by, within 10 to 15 minutes, and should have written formal documentation granting permission for the children to stay with them.  Once the temporary guardian arrives, they should then contact the police.

The temporary guardian’s contact information should be left with the sitter, and parents should explain to the sitter the steps they should take in the event of an emergency.  Parents should also make the temporary guardian aware of who the permanent guardians are so that they can contact them as well.

2.  Choosing a married couple

Given that marriages end in divorce 50% of the time, parents should consider whether or not they would want a divorced couple to be Co-Guardian’s.  For example, many parents may not want an “ex” in-law to be a co-guardian.

3.  Not Choosing enough Alternate Guardians

Alternates, ideally two, should be chosen in the event that the parents’ first choice is unable to take on the responsibility.

4.  Focusing on Finances

Remember, the children’s guardian does not need to handle money or finances.  That’s what the Trustee of the Estate is there for.

5.  Not Providing for Probate Avoidance

A trust should be set up to hold things such as investments, real estate, retirement plans, and insurance benefits for minors.

6.  Not Excluding Someone

In addition to choosing alternate guardians, parents also need to consider if there is anyone in the family that they wish to exclude from consideration as a guardian.  The Court will have the final say in this, however will consider the parent’s wishes.

Guardianship is just one of many things that should be considered in a Family Estate.  If you have questions on this, or other Estate Planning issues, please contact Brian Mandel at (949) 660-0007.  Brian is an Estate Planning Attorney who is recognized by the State Bar of California as a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law.