What is Guardianship of a Minor?

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In most cases, a child’s biological parents are considered responsible for their well-being. However, there are some instances where biological parents cannot care for their minor children or provide for their basic needs. In this case, the court may appoint another responsible adult as the child’s legal guardian. Guardianship may be required if both parents have passed away, if both parents are incapacitated, if both parents abandon the child, or if both parents are unable to care for the child due to mental health issues or addiction.

As a legal guardian, the adult is required to meet a child’s basic needs and give them food, shelter, access to education, and more. As a guardian, adults can also decide where a child lives, what medical treatments they will receive, and where they will attend school. Only legal guardians are allowed to make these decisions, and relatives of the child cannot unless they have been appointed guardianship.

A conservator is also sometimes called a guardian of the estate, although it is not the same as a legal guardian. A conservator is appointed by the court to handle any financial affairs of a minor child. In many cases, this involves handling life insurance policies or inheritances from deceased parents. While a guardian and a conservator can be the same person, the court may assign guardianship and conservatorship to two different legal adults. If you have questions about guardianship or conservatorship for minor children, call our law firm today at 615-930-3350 for a free consultation.

Who Can be Named As a Child’s Legal Guardian?

According to Tennessee law, any adult can file for guardianship of a minor child. However, the court does prioritize certain people when granting this petition.

The law gives priority to the following people:

  • The parents of the minor
  • The person designated by the parents in a will or other legal document
  • Adult siblings of the minor
  • The closest relative of the minor
  • Any other person

If you are petitioning for guardianship, you must prove that you are physically, emotionally, and financially able to support a minor child. Many times, the court will order a court visitor to do a home study to ensure that you have the resources available to care for a child.

If the minor child is over the age of 12, the court will ask them about their wishes and whether they would like to have guardianship appointed. If you are appointed as a guardian, you will most likely be required to report to the court once a year and provide details of any assets or income that the child is receiving.

How is Guardianship Handled in Blended Families?

If you and your partner are married and have children from previous relationships, handling guardianship can become complicated. In other circumstances, parents work together to appoint a guardian in a will or other estate planning documents, choosing someone they know and trust to take care of their minor children. In the case of blended families, however, this may not be the case.

In most instances, the other biological parent or adopted parent is named as the primary guardian for minor children. If a step-parent wishes to be named as a guardian, that is also an option. Assigning guardianship can become tricky if both parents do not agree on a single guardian for all children. In ideal circumstances, parents would create separate documents naming each guardian for their children. Parents may also be able to note their wishes, including who they wish to have visitation access to their children (like grandparents or siblings).

Because guardianship can become complicated so quickly in blended families, it is crucial to consult an estate planning lawyer when creating a will or a trust. Guardianship is an important legal consideration, and your children rely on you to choose a suitable guardian in case anything happens. Our team can help you create legally binding estate documents to protect your children and assign the guardian of your choosing.

What Other Estate Complications Arise in Blended Families?

Guardianship isn’t the only complication that can arise when creating estate planning documents for blended families. Inheritance, real estate, and life insurance policies must be specified within estate planning documents to ensure your children receive the assets they are entitled to.

Below are some considerations to take into account when estate planning in a blended family:

  • Inheritance. To protect your children’s inheritance, always establish separate bank accounts in your name only. Then, name your children as payable on death beneficiaries. When you die, any accounts solely in your name will be passed to beneficiaries, not your spouse.
  • Real estate. Adding your child’s name to the real estate title ensures they will receive that property once you pass.
  • Life insurance policies. Name your children as recipients of your life insurance policy so they receive a payout in the event of your death.
  • Wills. Sign a binding contract with your spouse, ensuring that neither of you will modify your will after the other one passes. This prevents your spouse from disinheriting your children if you pass away before your spouse does.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

Estate planning is complicated in the best of circumstances but becomes even more complex when step-children and blended families are involved. If you would like to create estate planning documents that protect your biological children, step-children, and adopted children, consulting an estate planning lawyer is the next step. At the Law Office of Chris Thompson, our attorneys have years of experience handling complex estate planning situations, so we are confident we can assist you. To receive a free consultation and learn more about our services, call our office today at 615-930-3350.

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