Why do I need a Guardian for my Child?

As a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer, I often get asked about picking a Florida Guardian for a child in the even that the parents were to die before the child becomes an adult. There are two types of guardians one should consider to take care of their children. There is the person who will actually be taking care of the child, and the person who takes care of their money. Often these end up being the same person.

If a persons has Florida trusts included in their Florida estate plan, they can choose a guardian for the child, and a trustee to take care of the child’s money or assets. This can prevent the need for a court maintained guardianship over the person. These are expensive to set up and in Florida, they require yearly reporting to the court. In addition, the court may determine that the funds are best protected in a restricted account. If funds are placed in a restricted account, the Trustee must hire a lawyer to file a petition to allow for use of money from the account. While this serves to protect the assets, it limits the investment opportunities, potential growth, and increases the costs of management. All of these fees and restrictions can actually cause the funds to decrease over time and the child may have less money at 18 then when they originally received it.

Susan Nattras an attorney in California has written an article What is a Legal Guardian And Why Do I Need One For My Child? In the article she discusses:
How to Choose the right person to be the Guardian? and gives some things to consider

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

In addition Susan suggests that you consider the following issues:

– Does the person have enough time and energy to devote to your child?
– Is the same guardian right for each of my children? and
– What if I’m not married to my partner? What will happen to our child if I die?

Choosing a guardian, and evaluating the guardian properly are very important issues for every parent. If you live in Florida you should speak with a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer about your concerns and individual needs.

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