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.

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Written by Randi Johnson

Randi Johnson

When I get up in the morning, I express my Gratitude. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my family and our community. I wake each day with a purpose – to preserve and restore Joy. That’s it; it’s really that simple. I get to help people support their family through estate planning! And I represent clients and Veterans in disability claims.