What to Know During the Guardianship Nomination Process

What to Know During the Guardianship Nomination Process

If something happened to you and you were unable to take care of yourself or your children, who would step in? Ideally, it would be someone you chose. Nominating a guardian before something happens allows you to do just that.

What Is a Guardian?

Think back to school forms asking for a parent or legal guardian. A guardian is a person who takes care of someone else when that person is incompetent to handle their affairs on their own. This could be due to a serious injury or illness. When minor children are involved, they may need a guardian if both of their parents are incapacitated or pass away.

A guardianship will generally cover similar decisions to what a parent could make for a child — even when the person needing a guardian is an adult. This may include medical decisions and, for minors, other life decisions such as where to go to school.

Guardianships can also cover managing the person’s finances, but finances are sometimes broken up into a separate conservatorship. Exactly what a guardian or conservator can do will be spelled out when the court approves the guardianship or conservatorship.

How Is a Guardian Different From Godparents?

When your children were born or shortly after, you may have appointed godparents. Godparents are often expected to step in and take charge of the children if something happens to a parent, but appointing a godparent is largely a religious or ceremonial action. Godparents aren’t directly recognized under the law.

To give a godparent the legal authority to act, and avoid conflicts with other family members who may wish to step in instead, you will need to go through the legal process of appointing the godparents as guardians, trustees, or other legal roles.

How Is a Guardian Different from a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney might grant all of the powers that a guardian can exercise. The difference is mainly timing. You sign a power of attorney when you have full mental capacity. A guardian is only appointed after you’re incapacitated. Part of the guardianship appointment process can include reviewing the wishes you specified when you still had full mental capacity. However, a power of attorney cannot be executed if you have diminished mental capacity, and it may be voided if a court finds you lacked capacity when you signed it.

Because a power of attorney can be limited in scope based on how you had your lawyer word it, it may not cover all of the actions that need to be taken on your behalf. In those situations, a guardian would be appointed to fill in the gaps.

How Do You Select a Guardian for Yourself?

Like a person dying without a complete will, the law has default rules for how to select a guardian based on relationships and willingness to serve. The court will also consider the ability to do the job of each person who wants to be the guardian. This can lead to serious family conflicts and large legal bills when two family members wish to serve as the guardian and can’t come to an agreement.

To avoid these types of problems, you can nominate a guardian. The judge isn’t bound to follow your nomination but will give it great weight and will only overrule your nomination with a strong cause. The process is called nomination of guardian, and you can select any adult of sound mind. Like a will, the judge will review your selection to ensure you were mentally fit to make the decision and weren’t under duress or tricked into doing so.

How Do You Select a Guardian for Your Children?

The process for nominating a guardian for your children is similar to nominating a guardian for yourself. The only real difference is that it’s even more important to make your decision in advance so that your children can have a sense of stability and not be left hanging during long court battles.

You should, of course, also talk to potential guardians to see if they are willing to take on this responsibility. However, being nominated does not obligate the person to accept the judge’s appointment if the time ever comes. Therefore, you probably want to select at least one alternate.

Do You Need a Guardian If You Left a Trust for Your Children?

You may have set up a trust to provide for your children financially in case something happened to you. The trustee is then able to manage their financial affairs in accordance with the trust.

However, someone still needs to take custody of the children to manage their daily lives and important life decisions. This is where you need to nominate a guardian, and your estate planning documents should lay out the responsibilities of both the trustee and the guardian.

Who Supervises a Guardian?

Once appointed, a guardian must make regular reports to the court. This includes financial information as well as other major decisions. Other family members can also go to court to contest the guardianship if they believe the guardian is doing something improper.

What If There Is a Conflict Between a Guardianship and a Power of Attorney or Trust?

There should be no conflicts with a guardianship and power of attorney or trust because the court should appoint the guardian in consideration of other estate planning documents. The guardian should only carry out duties not already provided for. To avoid confusion, you should attach your other estate planning documents to your nomination of guardianship to ensure that the judge will be aware of their existence. If a power of attorney or trustee believes a guardian was appointed improperly or is going beyond their role, they can contest those actions in court.

Are There Downsides to Being a Guardian?

Whether a guardianship is for an adult or minor children, being appointed as a guardian is a major responsibility. Like a parent, it can mean making tough choices and sometimes needing to put the other person’s wellbeing before the guardian’s own. The nominated guardian will also need to go to court during the nomination process and will need to make ongoing reports to the court as long as they remain guardian. Being a guardian is a lifetime appointment unless the judge appoints someone else.

Does a Guardian Have to be Local?

A guardian can theoretically live anywhere in the world. However, the judge will want to make sure that the guardian will be able to effectively perform their responsibilities without being unduly impacted by long-distance. For minor children, since they will often go to live with the guardian, the judge may also consider how a move would impact their lives and their access to other family members. You can and should include your wishes on these issues in your planning documents so the judge can understand the choices you made and to avoid conflicts between family members.

If you’re relying on a long-distance guardian, you should also consider who will act in a sudden emergency such as you being rushed to a hospital. You may want to have an alternate power of attorney that gives a more nearby family member the power to act until your guardian is able to step in.

Who Pays for Legal Fees During Guardianship Proceedings?

Your appointed guardian should understand that they don’t have to take on legal costs. If you have liquid assets, the court will pay the attorneys reasonable fees from your funds — just like any other of your expenses would be handled. If you don’t have liquid assets, there is a special guardianship fund established by the government. In no cases does the appointed guardian pay for court fees, although you may wish to set aside money to cover other expenses they may face while acting as a guardian.

Please note that this is separate from creating your nomination of guardian documents. Those costs would be arranged between you and your attorney just like any other legal work.

How Quickly Can a Guardian Be Appointed?

Even for a nominated guardian who isn’t contested, the court process is usually measured in weeks if not months. During an emergency situation, your family could petition the court to appoint a temporary guardian pending full court review. This person could potentially be the guardian you nominated.

In more urgent circumstances, such as an emergency room doctor needing an immediate decision, any power of attorney or living will documents that you created and are readily available will be used. Otherwise, the hospital or other entity would attempt to contact your next of kin and follow their authority in accordance with local law.

Talk to an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

To learn more about how nominating a guardian fits in with your estate planning strategy or to start the nomination process, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney at Lilac City Law today.


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What Are the Duties of a Guardian?

A guardian is appointed by you or a judge to make sure your children are adequately cared for if you pass away or no longer can perform your duties.

In essence, it is up to them to provide the child with the same necessities and privileges that they would expect to receive if you were still present in their life.

In most cases, appointed guardians are family members who already have an established relationship with the child, but close family friends can also be a good choice.

Regardless of who you would choose to take over short term guardianship of your children, or even permanent guardianship, there are several things you will need to think about in selecting someone appropriate.

Your Guardian should Provide Proper Care for Your Children

One of the primary tasks assigned to a guardian is to provide proper care to the child. This responsibility includes making sure that all of their medical needs are met (physically, mentally, and emotionally).

A guardian will be in charge of maintaining your child’s basic well-being, including activities that further their development and growth, including sporting events, extracurricular activities, and other events that provide the child with the same type of experiences that they may have received if you were present.

The terms proper care and maintenance commonly refer to all activities or practices that are employed during the raising and caring of a minor child.

A Guardian Needs to be Able to Provide the Necessities

A guardian is also charged with providing for all of the child’s necessities. These necessities include providing food, shelter, clothing, and any other items that may be needed. Of course, most people consider a loving home and ample opportunities to succeed as necessities as well.

If the appointed guardian cannot provide these things themselves, they must find a home that is suitable to offer those in their care. This can be a facility or the home of a close family member who knows the child and is willing to take on the responsibility of raising and caring for them daily.

In many cases, the guardian that is named by the parents (or appointed by the court) will personally take on the task of raising and caring for the child.

A Guardian’s Duty: Meet Educational Requirements

One of the most important parts of a guardian’s duties is to ensure that the child’s educational needs are met. These educational needs include both attending school and other extracurricular activities that are associated with the learning process. They can also involve hiring tutors and providing instruction in various forms outside of a school setting such as piano/guitar/violin lessons or athletic training.

It is up to the guardian to ensure that the child is offered the opportunity to attend secondary school and learn a trade or profession that allows them to become self-sustaining and successful adults. A guardian’s duty in this aspect is not fulfilled until the child becomes an adult and can legally care for themselves under the scope of the law.  Essentially, the guardian would support the child’s education needs as if they were their own child.

Work with a Reputable Attorney to Protect Your Family

If you have a minor child or children, it is essential that you take the necessary precautions and include specific instructions as to how your child is to be cared for and by whom if something were to happen to you.

At Lilac City Law we will help you make the best possible decisions when it comes to choosing the right guardian for your child. We will explain the duties that a guardian is expected to perform. We will also go over the full scope of your kids’ protection planning. 

Do not leave the future of your family up to chance, start planning ahead, today!


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Temporary Guardianship-Who Will Step in If You Can’t Be There?

Most parents have a plan in place for seeing that their children are cared for if they die.

What is often overlooked is what will happen to their children should they become temporarily incapable of caring for them and only need someone to step in and take over parental duties for a short time.

Short term care, or Temporary Guardianship, is especially important for a number of reasons.  One situation that this is important for is if you are a single parent and your child’s other parent is not in the picture or is unfit to take over their care.

Or if either or both parents travel a lot, and the other one works full time.  If something happens, who will temporarily have the ability, rights, and knowledge to make decisions on your children’s behalf?

Having a temporary guardianship plan in place before it is needed will save time and upset should a situation arise in which it is required.

Read on to discover what temporary guardianship is, how to determine who you want to have this guardianship, and why it may be necessary.

What Is Temporary Guardianship?

Think of temporary guardianship as substitute parenting. Most temporary guardianships last up to six months, but they vary depending on the time you and the guardian agree upon. Temporary Guardianship is not signing over your child permanently.

The temporary guardian will have all the decision-making power you currently have as a parent. They will decide what school your child attends, take them to the doctor, and make all other significant decisions.

You can limit what decisions they can make by listing restrictions in the paperwork, but doing so may not be logical if you are nowhere around to make those decisions.

Go into a discussion about temporary guardianship with the idea that the person you choose will be your child’s parent in every aspect during the time the temporary guardianship is active.

Why Might I Need to Appoint a Temporary Guardian?

The most often stated reason for needing a temporary guardian is when neither parent is physically able to care for the child. A temporary guardianship may happen due to something like a car accident or illness that requires an extended hospital stay. These types of contingencies can be especially necessary for single parents.

Single parents who cannot depend on the child’s other parent to be there are most likely to need to find a safe place for their child during these times. If there is no plan made, the state may step in and assign someone the duty of guardianship. This guardian could be a family member that you do not want raising your children or a foster home where they will be with strangers. 

Some parents find themselves unable to care for their child due to situations involving mental health issues or a drug or alcohol addiction. They may need a temporary break to enter rehab or another hospital. In these cases, you will need to make it very clear about how long the guardianship will last and what the terms of reclaiming custody involve.

These are situations in which the wrong choice for a guardian can end up getting the law involved, and it will put you in a position of having to prove you are capable of caring for the children. 

In still other instances, a parent or parents may find themselves in a situation in which they cannot financially care for a child.

For example, a single mother may find herself out of work and being evicted. Rather than face having her children live homeless on the streets or go hungry, she may sign over temporary guardianship to a family member or trusted friend until she can provide appropriately for the children.

How Do I Go About Choosing a Temporary Guardian?

One of the first things you need to consider is who is a regular presence in your children’s lives. Having you gone for an extended period will be difficult, and it is essential that they know the person they are left with. Be sure you understand what the person is like and that you can trust them to treat your children well and be a good role model.

Next, discuss the matter with the person. Not all people will be willing to take on this kind of responsibility.

Then, you need to create an agreement that has to be signed by both you and the temporary guardian. If any child is over fourteen, they may also be required to sign the paper.

There are many places online where you can find pre-made forms that need to be filled out. Alternatively, you may write one yourself.

Be sure to include as much information as possible, including dates that can be filled in when the time arises.

Finally, have the paper notarized and ensure both parties have a copy.

Final Thoughts

Having to turn over the critical decision-making for your children is never an easy decision. Knowing that someone will step in and continue to follow your plans and care for your children as you would help make the time less stressful.

Setting up temporary guardianship can be done quickly, without legal involvement. If, however, you have questions or would like to be sure you have covered all the legal loopholes in the process, give our office a call.

We will be more than happy to talk with you and help in any way possible to get you through this important process.


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When Granting Guardianship to a Family Member Is a Bad Idea

One of the most challenging things parents have to consider is that they may one day need someone to step in and take over the job of raising their children due to an unexpected accident or illness.

Courts typically grant guardianship of children to the surviving parent. But what happens if you are a single parent? Or both parents die or become incapacitated at the same time?  Or if one parent is unfit? 

In these cases, the courts will start to look to family members unless you have taken steps to grant guardianship to someone else.  Depending on how your family dynamic is, this might cause a great deal of anxiety! 

In fact, in some families, granting guardianship to any family member might not be a good idea!

Here are several circumstances that would make family members a poor choice to raise your children.

Your Family has a History of Abuse

Not everyone grew up in a loving family. If you grew up in a family in which you were abused in any way, you likely do not want to put your children into the same kind of situation.

If there was/is regular alcohol abuse or drug use this perspective might also be true. Children become at risk when they are left to fend for themselves because the adult who is supposed to be in charge is a victim of addiction.

We are discussing family here, but it is important to consider the family of ex-spouses or the exes of those who might gain custody of your children.

When you have a list of the family that absolutely should not have custody in any way of your children, you will want to gather any paperwork that proves your reasoning for not wanting the courts to give them guardianship.

Keep a copy of these papers with your essential paperwork, provide a copy to the person you want to have custody, and if you have a lawyer, make sure they also have a copy.

Adopting Your Children Would Create a Financial Hardship

Sometimes family members would willingly step up and take care of your children. Raising kids is, however, an enormous financial responsibility.

Unless you have a great deal of money, you can set aside to help pay expenses over the coming years, adding even one child to an established family may cause a financial burden. If you have several children, this makes it extremely difficult.

You do not want to put your family members in a position that will make it hard for them to provide for their own needs and that of their children while also providing for yours.

These people may be willing to try, and they may even be considered good choices as temporary guardians until a permanent one can be found.

Think about the custody of your children in financial terms may seem hard when it is their safety in question, but it is a practical matter that cannot be overlooked. 

And if you plan early enough, you might be able to set up a trust or will to help alleviate any financial burden your family would have from your untimely death.

Your Family is Unwilling or Unable to Adopt Your Children

Your parents raised you and any siblings. They may have been wonderful parents and given you all the love they had, and you might think they would make the perfect choice for granting guardianship.

Take time to think this through. First, they are older than you. It is likely that time has created a situation in which they are no longer physically able to keep up with the rigors of raising a child.

They may also be getting to the age at which they will not be around long enough to see your children to maturity.

You likely want to avoid a replication of the trauma and uncertainty that led your children to need new parents to raise them. 

On the other hand, maybe you have no family members who are willing to step up and take over: Your parents are enjoying their retirement, your siblings have lives of their own that they do not want to upset, or there may be other reasons.

Whatever the case, you do not want to choose someone who would refuse the responsibility and leave the care of your children up to a court or foster system.

We Can Help

Choosing the appropriate person for granting guardianship is a process that takes time and a lot of thought, as well as communication with them.

If you would like help making sure your final wishes are set down correctly, contact us.

Our knowledgeable lawyers will gladly answer all your questions and help you reach the place where you feel comfortable with your final guardianship choice.

We will gladly help you with this, and any other matter pertaining to it by making sure your estate is in order and your children are cared for by the person you feel will raise them as you would.


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Keep Your Assets Safe: How to Protect Yourself From Lawsuits

You have worked hard to have everything you own. That is why you cannot just leave your assets open to seizure in lawsuits or debts. You have to protect them.

Each year over 40 million lawsuits are filed in the United States, many of them seem frivolous. However, many of these frivolous lawsuits end with the plaintiff receiving millions of dollars in payout.

Lawsuits like these can be brought against you!

If you have a significant amount of assets that are unprotected you need to secure them now.  Here are some of the best ways to protect your assets from lawsuits.

Get Insurance

Making sure that you have insurance is one of your best defenses. Always ensure that you have enough coverage for each of the following:

  • home
  • vehicles
  • life
  • health
  • business

The minimum that is required by most states is usually not enough should a lawsuit be brought against you. You must ensure that you go beyond the minimum amount set by your state of residence so that you have enough to cover your assets if someone sues you.

In addition to the regular types of coverage discussed you may want to consider getting an umbrella coverage policy. Umbrella coverage is an extra layer of protection that will come in handy in case your regular coverage does not provide enough coverage in a large lawsuit.

Get Your Business Incorporated

One of the best steps you can take to protect your business is to get it incorporated.  It is more likely than not that that legal action will come against your business rather than you (playing the odds here).  However, this is not a steadfast rule as the determination whether to litigate against you or your business are wholly separate decisions for any potential plaintiff. 

The crux of this idea is directed at people who run small businesses (or home-based businesses).  When you turn your business into a legal entity (like an LLC) you can protect your assets should someone bring a lawsuit against your company.

You should connect with a business planning attorney to go over all your options.

Take Out A Retirement Plan

A great way to protect your money is to take out a retirement plan. If your assets are held in a 401(k) retirement plan, they are protected from legal action.

Check your state laws to get the details. However, generally speaking, most courts have ruled that funds held in a retirement plan cannot be touched by lawsuits.

Establish an Irrevocable Trust Fund to Protect Your Assets

When you establish an irrevocable trust your legal assets can be protected from any challenges presented in a lawsuit. 

The jist of this strategy is that the trust becomes a separate legal entity (from you and your family) and it would not be affected should a lawsuit come against you. 

This means you can protect your children, or other family members that you want to inherit your assets, from being potentially left penniless if a serious lawsuit is brought against you – or your desires as to where your assets should go were to be challenged after your death.  

Final Thoughts

If you have a significant amount of assets then it is in your best interest to protect them from lawsuits that can wipe them out. There are several ways in which to protect them.

You can get a retirement plan or insurance. You can also protect your assets by forming a corporation or LLC. Finally, one of the best ways to protect your assets is to create an irrevocable trust.

If you would like more information on how to legally protect your assets, please contact us.


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What is a Meretricious Relationship?

While a great number of relationships will split up between their first and second year, many will persist for many years or even decades.

If both parties can not agree or do not believe in the traditions of marriage, they might still be regarded under the law as in a meretricious relationship (definitions and terminology vary depending upon the state of residence).

Here is everything to know about whether or not your last relationship could be considered to be meretricious.

What Is a Meretricious Relationship?

Some people live together for years without getting married. As our society’s concepts of relationships, marriage, and commitment change, we need laws to accommodate our lives and recognize the bonds we make. Without having been married by the state, two people can typically still be considered married in many legal situations.

This is when a relationship is called a meretricious relationship, or a similar term, and considered a legal entity by the state.

Not every state recognizes this situation by the term meretricious. Some states call it something different like a “cohabitation” agreement.

If you have never been married but live with a partner and share intimate moments of your life, property, and finances, with them, you’re probably in a meretricious relationship.

Defining Your Relationship Is Tricky

Many factors determine whether or not you are in a meretricious relationship and they can feel relatively nebulous.

One item that demonstrates a marriage-like relationship is simply the length of your commitment. If you’ve got documentation that can show when you started dating or living together, you will be able to prove this should your claim to assets or support ever come into question.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do…

If a court of law can find that you and a former partner had a meretricious relationship, then any property related to the relationship could be split if desired (or if contested).

These things could include but are not limited to your actual money, assets, your home, and any vehicles you drive. They could even include custody for kids.

So What Do You Do Now?

We are not here to give you relationship advice. However, we can help you and your significant other to set up your estate and family protection plans to take into account the nature of your partnership. Whether you choose not to wed by choice, or you have not been allowed to due to the laws where you live, we know how to prepare you, financially and legally, for the stresses and challenges to come.

Do not let the nature of your relationship be the reason you do not reach out for help in planning your future together!

Contact Lilac City Law for Estate Planning Help


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What Legal Documents Would I Need To Establish Child Custody If Their Parents Were to Die?

What Legal Documents Would I Need To Establish Child Custody If Their Parents Were to Die?

If you have been asked to be the guardian of a child in your life, you may be wondering what legal documents you would need to have ready to go if the worst case scenario were to occur.

If you are the appointed guardian of one or several minors – here are the documents you should have readily available in the case of an untimely parent death or incapability to raise 

Last Will and Testament

Not everyone has a will ready to go even though this document is arguably the most important end of life document you can prepare.  Moreover, it is the most common place that people name a guardian for their children. 

Covering the basics here, both parents can write a mutual will, or they can write separate wills nominating the same person to be a guardian.  Obviously, much of this will depend on your marriage and parenting situation.

Naming a guardian in a will does not necessarily make that person the permanent guardian by default.  The named guardian will still need to be approved and found able to perform by a court. 

If you have been chosen to be a guardian for minors, you should request to have a copy of the will on hand, or accessible immediately upon the parent(s) passing.   

Guardianship Form

Some parents may have a guardianship form already ready to go.  This form names a permanent guardian for their child and also temporary “first responder” guardian(s). 

A temporary guardian is a person who can be there for the child immediately and until the permanent guardian is able to get to the child.  

Imagine something happens to the child’s parents while they are out of town and away from their kids.  The authorities who have to notify the family have no idea what guardianship plans are in place for the kids and absent any documentation they will have to take custody of the children for their safety.  

A neighbor or close family friend could be a temporary guardian, if so named, for the sake of keeping the children out of temporary foster or state care, until you can provide documentation of guardianship.  Of course, having the guardianship nomination forms immediately on hand is critical for the temporary guardians to step in and establish agency over the minors. 

All potential guardiance, permanent an temporary, should have a copy of their guardianship paperwork on hand or readily avialable, as they may need to produce these documents in a hurry, if they are needed.  

For more information about this, take advantage of (or share) our offer to provide a guardianship for your kids today!  

Guardianship Letter

A guardianship letter is not a legal document, but it is still an important document to have.  In a guardianship letter, parents can document how they want their child(ren) to be raised. 

A guardianship letter may include:

  • Type of Education: Should the child to go to public school or private school? Is there a specific school or district the parents want their child to be in?
  • Religion: What religion is the family.  Is it important to the family that the kids continue to be raised in that faith?  
  • Upbringing: How do/did the parents want the child(ren) raised? Do they want their children to be taught responsibility by having chores and earning an allowance?  Do they want their child to be raised however you see fit?  Have they decided to leave assets to enable this? 

The letter may also include reasons why they chose you as the guardian for their child. Writing the letter is a way to help anyone else not understanding why they were chosen, the reasons you were.

It may also help the judge to understand why the parents chose you as their guardian. 

Being a Guardian is Definitely a Big Deal!

Taking on the responsibility of being the guardian of a child is a big step.  You want to make sure that you are prepared for the amount of work you will have ahead of you.  You also want to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.  If at any point you do not feel like it will be the right fit for you or your family, tell the child’s parents immediately so they can choose someone else.

You also want to be sure that you have copies of any legal documents for child custody if their parents die, so you can show them to the proper people when the time comes to take guardianship of the child. 

If you have any questions about this whole subject, do not hesitate to reach out to us today.

Contact Us


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You May Also Want to Read

What Guardianship Forms Do I Need To Protect My Children?

What Guardianship Forms Do I Need To Protect My Children?

Anyone with a child should have an estate plan.

 A fundamental part of your estate planning is setting up the appropriate guardianship forms should something happen to you.

Unfortunately, many people do not have an estate plan or guardianship plans because they either have not thought about it or they are unsure how to start.

In this article, we will discuss how to make sure your kids are protected, and the forms you’ll need to think about to establish this plan.

A Will

A last will and testament can be the most important form you can have in your estate plan.

Your will is not only the place for you to outline what happens to your property after you die, it is also where you might name a guardian for your children (or pets), identify someone to handle your property after death on behalf of your children, and identify an executor to manage your property from the time you die until your estate is settled.

A will falls under the umbrella of guardianship forms because whoever you name in your will, will become your children’s permanent guardian after you die.

If you do not name someone, then either a judge (who likely does not know you or your family) will choose who they think will be best, or someone will have to petition the family court to become your children’s guardian.

If you want a specific person to raise your children after you die, then you need to have a will.

To find out how to choose the best guardian for your children, click here.

Temporary Guardianship

Naming a temporary guardian for your children is not something most people think about.  This is especially true if they have already named a permanent guardian.  But there is a good reason to get a temporary guardianship setup.  For instance,  if there is an emergency and your permanent guardian cannot get to your children right away, then your children will go into the state’s care until your permanent guardian can get to them.  This is just adding trauma to trauma – in an already uncomfortable situation for them!

Having a temporary guardian set up will help reduce the stress and anxiety the children may already be going through.  They will be more comfortable with someone they know and trust.  And they can start working towards their new sense of normalcy.

Setting up a temporary guardian is also important if you are going out of town or the country.  Setting up a temporary guardianship will allow your children’s caretaker to make school decisions and medical decisions if needed.

To read more about temporary guardianship, click here.

Letter of Instruction

One more guardianship form that gets overlooked is a letter of instruction.

This is the place where you explain your hopes and expectations for how your children are raised.  These include decisions about your children’s education, activities, and religion.  Be sure to update this letter as your children grow and their interests and needs change.  Also, make sure you share and discuss this letter with your chosen guardian(s) so there are no surprises.

These are the three most important guardianship forms to have for your estate plan to protect your children.  You can read our article What Legal Documents Do I Need for my Estate Plan? to learn more about what other documents you need to have in your estate plan to protect your children and family.

I Need Help Setting Up Guardianship Documents For My Family
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How You Can and Should Educate Your Family About Your Estate Planning Forms

How You Can and Should Educate Your Family About Your Estate Planning Forms

Having an estate plan in order is the best way to protect your family if you unexpectedly die or become disabled.

Fundamentally, an estate plan is a collection of necessary forms and instructions for people to use and follow when they eventually become necessary (and they will someday).

Once you have estate plan established, and forms ready – with instructions – you still need to educate your family and other key parties about them.

Let us look at how you can do this and why you should do this.

Critical Estate Planning Forms

Again, Estate planning forms are where you put your wishes in writing –  so that your family and loved ones know exactly what you want when you die or become incapacitated.

Some of the planning forms you should have are:

  • Will/ Trust: This is where you put what you want to happen to your property. It is important to have a will or trust even if you do not have substantial assets.  Having a will or trust will help with probate and make it easier for things to be divided.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Finances: This document names a person to take care of your finances for you.  This should be a person that you trust to make decisions you would want.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: This document names a person to make your healthcare decisions for you. You can have the same person for your finances and healthcare if you wish but do not have to.  Make sure the person you choose, knows what you want for your healthcare if you cannot make those decisions for yourself.
  • Beneficiary Designations: There are certain types of assets, such as life insurance, that does not get dictated by your will. If you do not have a beneficiary designated for these items, then the court can determine who will be your beneficiary.
  • Letter of Intent: This is where you will define what you want to be done with certain items. It can include what you would like for your funeral services or other special requests.  You can also add in a letter of intent, your wishes for the way your children should be raised and what types of decisions should be made regarding education, schooling, and other important situations.
  • Guardianship Designations: This is where you will name a guardian for your children and a backup guardian in case the original guardian cannot fulfill the role. Sometimes this is done within the will but if it is not then you need to have a separate place for it. If you do not name a guardian, then the court will place your children with who they believe to be best for your children.

How To Educate Your Family About Your Estate Planning Forms

This is very easy.

Discuss with your family what planning forms you have used as well as what you have put in them.  Also, make sure to keep all of your estate planning forms together in a secure place and that at least one or two family members know how to find them.

For guardianship designation, make sure that whoever you choose also has a copy of the form.  This is important in case your copy cannot be found.

Of course, just because we say it’s easy – doesn’t make it so!  We’re always here to help as well.  We can provide great ideas, for instance, we constantly have classes and other outreach opportunities they can attend.  OR – perhaps they need an estate plan themselves, after seeing how this plan has helped set you and your family up for success.  Sometimes the best education is doing something in the first place.  We certainly love referrals!

I Need Help Talking About This With My Family OR I Need An Estate Plan Myself, Today!
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Does Tenancy By the Entirety Matter Where I Live? (Spokane, WA)

Does Tenancy By the Entirety Matter Where I Live? (Spokane, WA)

When purchasing a home or property, most people do not know that there are several forms of ownership.

Regarding inheritance and passing on property, each form has its own way of affecting your property when you die.

It’s a bit complicated, but if you are planning on leaving your children property, you should have a basic understanding of these options.

*Not all states have each form of ownership as an option*

– Read More Below –

Three Ways to Own Property

There are three ways to own property; individually, jointly with others, or by contract rights.

Each of these has there own way of affecting your property after you die.

Individual Ownership

This simply means that you own your property by yourself.  There is no other owners or a beneficiary designation.  When you die, your property will have to go through probate to release your name and be changed into whomever you want to take ownership.

Joint Ownership

Joint ownership is when you own your property with someone else.  Within this type of ownership, there are subtypes.

  • Joint Tenancy with right of survivorship: All owners have an equal right to the property. For example, if the property in question is a bank account, any of the joint owners may withdraw funds as long as they have permission from the other owner.  However, in the case of real estate, the property cannot be sold or mortgaged without all parties agreeing ahead of time. When one owner dies, the ownership automatically goes to the other owner.
  • Tenancy by the Entirety: This type of ownership is available only for married couples (same-sex couples in some states are eligible as well). It is very similar to joint tenancy in that there is an equal right to the property and when one spouse dies, the other automatically acquires ownership.
  • Community Property: This type of ownership is for married couples only as well. Each person’s ownership is set by specific state laws that state what their rights are.
  • Tenancy in Common: Each person who “owns” the property owns a specific percentage and can withdraw, mortgage, or sell his own piece. When one tenant dies, their percentage does not automatically go to the other owners.  Instead, the property goes to his beneficiaries.

Title by Contract

You have complete control of your property while you are alive.  After death, your property will pass outside of probate to your beneficiary.

Only Some State Recognize Tenancy by the Entirety

Most states recognize all forms of joint ownership. However, not all recognize tenancy by the entirety.

Here are the states that recognize it:

States With Tenancy by the Entirety Ownership
ArkansasNew Jersey
DelawareNew York*
District of ColumbiaNorth Carolina*
Kentucky*Rhode Island*
* For real estate only

** For homestead property only

Joint tenancy of husband and wife is automatically a tenancy by the entirety

‡ Only if created before April 4, 1985

*Washington State Does Not Recognize Tenancy by the Entirety*

Most Common Titles of Ownership for Washington State

There are five different forms of ownership recognized in Washington State.  Each one is slightly different and affects your property differently in the case of your death.

  1. Single Individual: Not married or in a legal partnership
  2. Separate Property: A married person who individually holds the title without a spouse
  3. Community Property: Property that is acquired after marriage or legal partnership
  4. Tenancy-In-Common: Two or more people whose interest is in the property who are not married or partnered. The interest of each tenant would be passed down though heir
  5. Joint Tenancy: Two or more people with an equal interest in the property. When one tenant passes, the property interest is automatically passed on to the other tenant(s). (This form is the most like tenancy by the entirety)

For more information about Tenancy by the Entirety, you can read our other articles here or here.

What do I Need to Know About Tenancy by the Entirety?
Does Washington State Recognize Tenancy By The Entirety?