In family law, a guardian is defined as a person who is awarded the legal authority and responsibility to make personal, legal, and financial decisions for a minor child or a person with mental and/or physical disabilities that prevent them from making their own decisions. The child or adult requiring guardianship is also referred to as the ‘ward’. The legal authority is assigned to guardians in the following cases:
• An adult leaves behind a minor child without a surviving parent
• An adult is developmentally disabled
• A senior is incapacitated due to age-related afflictions or infirmity
When it comes to designating a guardian, there are two ways to do it. Parents often leave instructions and name a guardian and often a secondary guardian for their minor children in their wills or trusts. Caregivers with financially dependent disabled adults do the same. Seniors who later become disabled can take proactive actions and name a guardian in their estate plan during a time when they have their mental faculties. The alternative for all of these is going through a court proceeding to determine guardianship.
The appointed guardian can be an individual (family member or otherwise) or an institution such as a non-profit organization or a bank trust. The guardian in all three instances will be held accountable for their decisions. If they fail to carry out their duties, the court will be responsible for their removal and assignment of another guardian.
When it comes to guardianship for minors, the guardian is responsible for taking all personal and financial decisions until they reach legal adulthood (they turn 18). Also, if their parent/s left inheritance in their will or trust, it will be transferred to them.
In this section, there are articles that link the role of guardianship within estate planning. You will find advisory articles talking about how to designate a guardian, what not do when doing so, and so forth.