Appointing a Guardian for Your Minor Child in California

How should I decide who will serve as a guardian for my minor child?

Appointing a guardian is a critically important decision for the parents of any minor child.  None of us wish to consider the possibility that we may pass away before seeing our children reach adulthood, but sadly millions of Americans die unexpectedly due to accidents or illnesses every year.  Without a named guardian in place, the court will be forced to select a guardian for your child.  Our California estate planning lawyers at OC Wills and Trusts explore the basics of guardianship and how you can select a guardian for your minor child below.

California’s Guardianship Laws

Under California law, you can name a guardian in your will or other legal document.  Your appointment, however, is not automatically binding.  The court must approve the guardian and formerly appoint your named guardian before he or she can assume legal responsibilities for your child.

Selecting a Guardian

There are several critical factors you should consider when deciding who should serve as your child’s guardian.  Reflect on the following:

  1. The ability and willingness of the guardian to serve this role:  Ask yourself and the potential guardian whether they will be able to meet the physical and economic demands of raising your child.  Potential guardians should be willing to serve in this vital role.
  2. Your guardian’s family:  Take into account whether the guardian is married or single and has his or her own children.  If you elect to name a couple as guardians for your child, be aware of the possibility for divorce.  Consider naming a single person as the primary guardian or creating a clause in the event of divorce.
  3. Moral, religious, and child-rearing philosophies:  Ideally, you will want to select a guardian that shares your values.  If your religious or moral values are important to you, consider whether your potential guardian will continue to instill your child with these values.
  4. Your child’s wishes:  If your child is older, you could take into account their bonds or relationships with other adults in your family.
  5. Financial considerations:  An additional child will have financial implications for your guardian. Take financial ability into account when selecting a guardian and further plan for your child to be financially cared for after your death.  

Selecting a guardian is an extremely personal and complex decision.  Contact an estate planning attorney for assistance with this critical step.