Has a friend or family member asked you to become a guardian of their children should both parents pass away or become incapacitated?
You may not know how to answer, or perhaps you already gave an emphatic yes or no.
Before you make your final decision, you need to know what guardianship entails: You may become responsible for choices regarding the children (guardianship of the person), their money (guardianship of the property) or both.
Basic duties include caring for the children and managing their medical needs and education. You will also have to report to the court on the well-being of the children and/or their finances to ensure proper fulfillment of your role.
Additionally, you may have to make major life decisions on the children's behalf. Below are five situations you may experience.
- Emergency medical treatment: In a medical emergency, certain procedures may require your consent. Also, you may have options for treatment. You will have to weigh the benefits and risks of each to decide which is best for the child.
- End-of-life medical care: If one of the children becomes terminally ill or injured, you may have to determine the kind of end-of-life care the child will and will not receive. Examples include assisted breathing, resuscitation and tube feeding.
- Religious worship: For your loved one, the religious upbringing of the children may be important because of its far-reaching impact. You may have to discourage them from joining certain religions or encourage them to maintain their current beliefs.
- Disciplinary action: Your style of discipline may not seem like a major life decision, but parenting methods have lifelong effects on children's emotional health. If the children act out due to the trauma of losing their parents, how you respond can make the difference between a temporary phase and a continual life of legal trouble.
- Investments: If you handle the children's assets, you are accountable for securing their financial future. You must be wise in your choice of investments and management to protect their money.
Only agree to be a guardian if you can complete these responsibilities to avoid the legal process of finding a replacement should you not accept the role when the time comes.