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No one likes to think about worst-case scenarios. These are the catastrophic events that can cause great problems in one’s life. When you are a parent, one of the worst things that can happen is that you die and someone else has to raise your child. If you are like most folks, you probably don’t even want to think about this happening. 

Unfortunately, each year, parents of children die as a result of accidents and diseases, leaving the children orphaned. If there is no immediate family member available or if the relatives cannot agree on who will be given custody of the children, there is a chance that the government could step in and decide the issue instead. Many children who are orphaned without a guardian named by their parents end up in foster care, which has its own set of problems. So you need to know the answer to the question, “How do I name a guardian for children?” You also have to understand the factors to consider in choosing a guardian for children.

This is not a very pleasant task. However, it is crucial if you want to make sure that your children are protected in the event that you are not around to raise them.

Who Should You Choose to be Your Child’s Guardian?

There are a number of factors you should consider in choosing a guardian. As a threshold matter, it is often best to choose someone with whom you have a close relationship. This can often be a close friend or immediate relative. These are the people you know and love, and with whom you trust your children. In addition, they may share your religious beliefs and moral positions, so you won’t be concerned that your child will be indoctrinated into believing something that you do not support. 

You also want to make sure that the person you choose is up to the task. Some older relatives may not feel like they have the strength to handle raising a child, especially one of tender years. Conversely, a younger friend or relative may not want to be saddled with raising your child, especially if they are single. That is why a friend or relative who has children of similar ages might be the best choice. In any event,  always check beforehand to make sure that the person you choose is willing to serve. 

It is helpful if the guardian has a stable home life and is financially sound. Someone who is living hand to mouth may not have the financial wherewithal to provide for their child. In addition, a stable home life is vital since your child is already dealing with the trauma of losing you. This is also why it is a good idea to choose a guardian who lives in the same community. Moving your child to another town with a different school will only add to the difficulties he or she is facing.

How Can I Formalize My Choice of Guardian?

Each state has its own process for parents to designate a guardian. Nevertheless, most states will require that the parent put the choice of guardian for a minor child into a will. For example, in Kentucky, a parent should name the guardian in his or her will. As long as the individual is over 18, of sound mind, and not currently incarcerated, the court will usually go along with your choice. Similarly, Ohio requires that the parent designate a guardian in his or her will. This can be the same or a different person is chosen as the executor of the estate.

How Is Custody Passed to the Guardian?

Upon the death of a parent with minor children, the court will review the person who has been designated as the guardian. In Ohio, the prospective guardian will file an application for the appointment of a guardian with the probate court. This will include information about the person named in the will, as well as other next of kin. The court will then review the papers and appoint a guardian, giving great weight to the person named in the will. The person appointed will receive letters of guardianship granting him or her custody of the minor child. However, if the court deems the person that you designated in your will unfit or if the child is over 14 and prefers a different relative, there is a chance that the court will choose someone else to serve as guardian.

In Kentucky, the District Court with jurisdiction over your estate will undertake a similar process. Just like in Ohio, a minor child over 14 can let the court know whom they would like to have custody. This opinion is not dispositive, but it can influence the court’s decision. If you are concerned this might happen, you should explain why you chose the person for guardian, and explain your concerns about someone whom your child might nominate instead.

If You Have Minor Children, Give Us a Call to Help You Set Up a Plan for Them

It is never pleasant considering the “what ifs” that can happen in the future. This is why so many parents prefer not to think about issues like guardianship. At Shaw & Nelson, our team will help you design a guardianship provision for your will so that your custodial wishes will be met in the tragic event of your untimely passing. Book a call with one of our lawyers today, so we can start assisting you.