Father and son talking about guardianship.

A Look At What Can Happen If You Never Name a Guardian for Your Minor Child

How can I avoid a family feud over the care of my children?

One of the greatest fears of any parent is what would happen to their children in the event of their unexpected death.  While none of us wish to think of such a tragic occurrence, the reality is that accidents and illnesses claim hundreds of thousands of lives annually.  Without a plan in place for the care of your minor children, the future of your children could be left up to the court system.  Our Orange County, California estate planning lawyers discuss what could potentially happen to your minor children should you and your spouse both pass away without having named a guardian.  

Without a Plan in Place, the Court Must Decide 

Parents have the ability to name a guardian for their minor child as a part of their estate plan.  If both parents die and no guardian is appointed, then the court will have no choice but to appoint a guardian.  The court will first determine who is willing and able to care for the child.  Then a hearing will ensue during which the court will select a guardian based on what it perceives to be in the best interests of the child.  

While judges certainly strive to make the best decision, they are basing this decision on the limited information gleaned before and during the hearing.  It is entirely possible that the court could appoint an individual whom you would not have selected.  Further, if multiple family members desire to care for the child, family feuds can ensue which may permanently alter the child’s relationship with relatives.

At times, the court is forced to place a child in foster care while the court gathers information and makes decisions on guardianship.  This is undoubtedly a nightmare scenario for any parent.  Fortunately, parents can avoid any possibility of foster care, family fights, and court hearings by acting now to make an estate plan.  California parents have the ability to name a guardian for their minor children within their will or a separate document.  The document should include a second choice guardian if the first is unable or unwilling to serve.  Contact an estate planning lawyer today to get started creating this critical document that will secure the future of your children.