Choosing a Legal Guardian for Your Children

Are you a current, new or expectant parent? In addition to your will, all parents should have a guardianship document in place that lays out who will take care of your children should something happen to both parents (this could be incapacitation or death, check out the article I wrote about the Incapacitation Laws in Missouri) which would render both unable to take care of their children.

Who COULD get appointed as a guardian in Missouri if you do not have a Guardianship Document in place?

If no document is in place any person could come forward and petition the probate court to become the guardian of your children. However, The Court shall not appoint someone who is not a relative unless there is not a suitable or willing relative available to serve as the Guardian. Should a non-relative come forward the court will consider various factors in determining if this person should be appointed.

In many circumstances when guardianship is an issue, so is the responsibility of controlling the Estate Property left behind. This person is called a Conservator. It is possible guardians who petition the court to be guardians could have more interest in controlling portions of the estate left behind for the children they are seeking guardianship over.

Putting a guardianship document in place limits the chance of someone who has petitioned for guardianship for the wrong reasons being awarded guardianship over your children.

Things to Consider When Deciding Who to Appoint as Legal Guardian for Your Children

Once you get past the idea that the best parent for your child is you and no one else can compare, you can move on to choosing the next best person. Make a list of all the possible candidates, and then sit down with your partner and talk over the pros and cons of each one.

Here are a few things to think about while you’re going through the process:

  • Whose parenting style, values, and religious beliefs most closely match your own?
  • Who is most able to take on the responsibility of caring for a child – emotionally, financially, physically, etc.?
  • Who does your child feel comfortable with already?
  • Would your child have to move far away, and would that pose any problems?
  • Does the person you’re considering have other children? If so, would your child fit in or get lost in the shuffle?
  • Would the person have enough time and energy to devote to your child?

Once you narrow your list to a few key people, talk to them about how they’d feel about being named guardian of your child. The conversations may reveal feelings and attitudes that will help you make your final decision. Perhaps one person will express a clear desire to play this role, or you’ll find out that one of your choices isn’t willing to take on the responsibility.

Another thing to consider is how many children the guardian you choose could be in line to be a guardian over. My uncle once told me at one time if something happened to my parents and some of my other Aunts and Uncles at the same time then he was in line to be the guardian for 11 children. It’s impossible to avoid every circumstance, but it is important to have these conversations, so people know what to expect.

If you do not have a guardianship document in place, do not feel like you are a terrible parent. You are not alone in not having these prepared. If you would like to learn more about a guardianship document and how to set one in place for your family, do not hesitate to reach out and set up a complimentary consultation with our estate planning attorneys today to learn about the peace of mind this document will provide to your growing family.