Who May I Nominate As Legal Guardian For My Child?

A judge’s gavel sits on top of an elegant book with the word Guardianship on the spine.

Who May I Nominate As Legal Guardian For My Child?

An essential part of estate planning for those with minor children is naming a guardian to care for them should the parents become mentally or physically incapacitated or pass away. The person or people you name will care for the kids until they turn 18. While most people may never need the individual to step in, and it is often uncomfortable to consider, naming a legal guardian ensures your children are safe and healthy. Appointment of guardianship for minors also allows you to select someone with similar views and parenting styles to step in on your behalf so that someone you trust raises your children in your absence. You may want to speak with a Florida estate planning lawyer at Loughlin Law, P.A., by calling 561-677-8384 to learn more about how to name a guardian for your dependents.

How To Protect Minor Children With an Estate Plan

When parents cannot care for their children, a guardian of their choice can take responsibility and ensure they receive the care they deserve. Guardianship is a person’s legal authority to make crucial decisions on the parent’s behalf. Things to keep in mind when someone is choosing a guardian to name in their will include:

  • Select someone who already has a close relationship with the parents and children and shares similar philosophies for raising children.
  • The legal guardians can legally make essential decisions regarding healthcare, education, religion, and more.
  • Name alternative guardians if something happens, causing the person they choose to be unable to take on the role and additional responsibilities it entails.
  • Speaking to the primary and alternative guardian selections is essential to get their permission and ensure they are prepared to take on the significant responsibility.
  • The legal document should provide complete and accurate contact information for the individual they choose and be updated as needed.

How Do You Legally Make Someone a Godparent?

The laws in Florida do not recognize godparents as a legal role. However, during estate planning, parents can designate the same individuals they select for the cultural or religious role of godparents as legal guardians of their minor children. Those individuals can then be the surrogate decision-makers for minors if the parent is incapacitated or deceased.

Advantages of Designating a Guardian for Your Minor Children

Designating guardians for minor children during estate planning offers a number of advantages. Some of these include:

  • Parents feel secure and have peace of mind knowing they are protecting their children
  • They can select people they trust the most to raise their kids as they would want them to be raised
  • Parents can minimize potential conflicts among family members

While the decision largely falls on the parents, there are some restrictions regarding the selection of guardianship under Florida laws.§ 744.309 Fla. Stat. (2023) prohibits anyone from being a guardian if they are convicted felons or have convictions involving abuse, negligence, or abandonment.

What Happens to Your Child if You Die Before Naming a Guardian?

When someone who has children under the age of 18 dies without naming a guardian in their will or other written declaration, the probate court chooses a guardian on the deceased person’s behalf. Even when parents know and state to others who they wish to care for their children on their behalf, unless it is in writing, the decision will fall upon the court.

When people pass away with minor children, the courts will check the will first to determine if they named a legal guardian to care for the dependents in their place. When they do not name a guardian, the probate court judge decides based on the next of kin process under § 744.312 Fla. Stat. (2023). The procedure can be stressful and time-consuming and is a common cause of disputes among the deceased’s family.

Consider Creating a Trust To hold Your Minor Child’s Funds

Parents and guardians can also create a trust to hold funds for their children in case of their death. Even when they do not have significant savings, they can name the trust as a beneficiary, so life insurance and other retirement accounts or savings will go towards the trust fund upon death. They can also select someone they trust to oversee the trust and manage the funds for the minor children or disabled dependents. They can choose the same person they nominate as the legal guardian or someone else to handle those responsibilities. This can be especially beneficial for special needs children.

Trusts allow the trustor to direct how the guardian disburses the assets and what they can or cannot use them for. Many parents choose to allow for the release of funds for their children’s needs as children and then receive a lump sum payment when they turn 18. An attorney at Loughlin Law, P.A. may be able to prepare the estate planning documents and help parents name a legal guardian for their dependents.

What Guardians Should Know

While the probate court will look to the will for the deceased wishes for a guardian, they will still need to appoint the individual. Guardians have a legal obligation and expectation to act in the best interest of the children they agree to care for, including covering living expenses. However, many parents set up a trust for those expenses. On the child’s 18th birthday, the guardianship expires, and any property their parents left them must be transferred to their possession. Per the information provided by the Florida Courts, minor guardians are surrogate caretakers and decision-makers the court appoints to care for and protect young children.

Consider Calling a Seasoned Florida Estate Planning Attorney Today

Appointing a guardian is an essential part of estate planning for parents with minor children, as it provides many advantages. Children are their parents’ most adored and valued treasures, and laying out a plan in the event of incapacitation or death allows you to ensure they are safe, even if something happens and you cannot be there yourself. The preparation will give you peace of mind, knowing you have taken the time to plan carefully for your children’s future. Consider speaking with a seasoned Florida estate planning lawyer at Loughlin Law, P.A., by calling 561-677-8384 to learn more about nominating and naming a legal guardian for your children in your estate plan.

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