10 Things to Think about When Choosing a Guardian

Last updated on: April 9, 2024

Choosing a guardian is an important part of estate planning. Whether you have minor children, an adult child with special needs, or an aging loved one who needs someone to look after them in case you pass away or become incapacitated, if you don’t feel comfortable letting the courts decide for you, there are several things you need to consider before making your choice official.

Take control of your family’s future by consulting with a Houston guardianship attorney. At The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson, our experienced attorneys can provide the guidance you need to obtain guardianship for your adult child. Ensure your loved one’s protection and well-being according to your wishes. Contact us at (281) 214-0173 today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward securing a reliable guardian for your family’s peace of mind.

Choosing a Guardian

When you pick someone to serve as a guardian for your loved ones, you want to ensure that they will have someone reliable to count on, no matter what your loved ones’ needs are. You can accomplish this by including a valid will and a designation of guardian form in your estate plan. But before you create these legal documents and name a guardian, you should ask yourself these questions.

10 Questions to Ask

These questions will help you decide whether your intended guardian is a good choice:

  • Does the person have the financial means to support your loved one?
  • Does the person have integrity and a reputation for honesty?
  • Has the person ever been in trouble with the law?
  • Has the person ever had a problem with substance abuse?
  • Is the person in good health?
  • Does the person have enough time to devote to your loved one’s needs?
  • Does the person handle his or her own affairs in a responsible manner?
  • Is the person related to your loved one, and if not, are they close enough to your loved one to know what their wishes would be?
  • Will the person be able to carry out all the duties associated with being a guardian?

It is also critical to choose someone who can serve as a guardian in case your first choice passes away or becomes incapacitated.

Other Things to Consider When Choosing a Guardian

Becoming a guardian often requires cooperation with third parties, such as other relatives, so it is important to choose someone who will make the required effort to work with others. It is also important to consider whether your intended guardian has the education and skills necessary to take care of your loved one’s finances and medical needs.

What is a Good Guardian?

Choosing a guardian for your children is a profound decision that should align with the deepest values and aspirations you hold for your family’s future. The characteristics that define a good guardian are multifaceted, each crucial to ensuring your children’s comprehensive well-being.

Patience stands at the forefront of guardianship. Children naturally test boundaries, and a guardian with a deep reservoir of patience is invaluable, particularly for children who may have experienced the trauma of losing a parent. Such patience fosters a nurturing environment where understanding prevails.

Closely linked to patience are empathy and kindness. A guardian who empathizes can connect with a child’s inner world, offering support through tough times. Emotional nurturing is as critical as physical care, and a guardian’s kindness can make all the difference in a child’s healing and growth.

The guardian’s core values and Beliefs also warrant careful consideration. While finding someone who mirrors every belief is unlikely, aligning on fundamental values ensures your children are raised in an environment that reflects your family’s ethos. Determine which values are essential and seek a guardian who embodies these.

Financial literacy is also a practical yet vital aspect. A guardian should be financially responsible, able to manage the additional costs of raising children, and, if necessary, steward any inheritance wisely. Their financial acumen is often a good indicator of how they might handle the fiscal duties of guardianship.

Lastly, assess their parenting style. Whether they are experienced parents or not, observe how they interact with children. Their approach to discipline, education, and affection should resonate with your parenting philosophy to ensure continuity in your children’s upbringing.

Guardian vs Custodian

Although minors can own assets, they lack the legal capacity to handle those assets as a competent adult would. Consequently, when an individual designates their minor child as the beneficiary of their employee benefit plan, most plan administrators will demand that the deceased participant’s interest be distributed to a court-appointed legal guardian for the minor. This results in a guardianship supervised by the court for the minor’s inherited benefits.

There are two types of guardianship: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate. A guardian of the estate is responsible for managing the assets owned by the minor child since the minor lacks the authority to do so. Guardianships can be complex and costly court proceedings that involve legal fees, court approvals, annual financial reports, and the need for a fidelity bond. These expenses are covered by the assets owned by the minor, reducing the available amount for the minor’s benefit.

As an alternative to guardianship, estate planning attorneys often suggest establishing a custodial arrangement under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) for smaller amounts of assets given to a minor. A custodial arrangement is simpler and less expensive compared to a guardianship proceeding. Under UTMA, an adult designated as a custodian manages the custodial account on behalf of the minor until the minor reaches the age of majority, which is typically 21 in Texas for UTMA accounts. The custodian has the authority to make investment and distribution decisions concerning the account.

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However, UTMA may not be the most suitable option for substantial amounts of assets, as many transferors consider the termination age under UTMA to be too young for the beneficiary to have full control over the assets. Additionally, if the custodian passes away without appointing a successor custodian, a court proceeding may be necessary to appoint a new custodian. It’s important to note that assets held in a UTMA account at the custodian’s death are included in the custodian’s estate for federal estate tax purposes.

For a comprehensive understanding of the legal implications and distinctions between custodians and guardians in Texas, it’s recommended to consult with a Houston estate planning attorney. At The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson, our attorneys will be able to provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. Contact us to schedule a consultation with us today.

Get Help Choosing a Guardian for Your Loved One

As a guardianship and estate planning attorney, I know what it takes to be a guardian. I can tell you that choosing the right guardian for your children or loved one is possibly the most important decision you will make when creating an estate plan. If you need help creating an estate plan that includes a designated guardian, I can help you ensure that you have everything in place that is necessary to make your decision official.

Want to learn more about how I can help you and your family? Don’t hesitate to contact me today so that we can discuss your needs and the needs of your loved one.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Guardian Description
Financial means and responsible affairs Evaluate their ability to provide financial support and handle their own affairs responsibly.
Integrity, reputation, and law trouble Consider their honesty, reputation, and absence of legal issues.
Substance abuse and good health Assess the impact of substance abuse and their overall health on caregiving.
Time availability and relationship to loved one Ensure they can dedicate sufficient time and have a strong connection with your loved one.
Capability to fulfill duties and education/skills Evaluate their ability to meet legal responsibilities and manage finances/medical needs.
Backup guardian and cooperation with others Consider their suitability as a backup guardian and willingness to collaborate with involved parties.

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