It is difficult to contemplate the scenario of what would happen to your children if you and your spouse died while your children are still minors. Of course, all parents would want what is best for their children including having someone trusted and selfless assume Guardianship over the children. However, what if a Guardianship contest broke out among family members over who received Guardianship because the parents failed to designate a Guardian? And what if this contest was based on financial gain, because with Guardianship of the children, comes the money associated with the children? Most parents would say that that is the opposite of what they would want should they pass before their children reach the age of maturity. The failure to designate a Guardian of minor children could result in such a contest.
The promise of an inheritance, life insurance pay out or litigation settlement can entice family members to pursue Guardianship over orphaned minor children thus leading to drawn-out legal battles among family members for Guardianship rights.
When most couples have a baby, the last thing they may think about is a potential Guardianship fight. Couples with minor children may have the belief that it’s too early to start planning for a time when they may not be around anymore. Couples may also have the belief that if something were to happen to them, their children would be taken care of by family members who love their children just as they do, so it is unnecessary to put anything in writing. However, the reality is that Guardianship contests break out among families more often than one would think.
Oftentimes life insurance benefits or litigation settlements due to children of deceased parents are conditioned upon a Guardianship determination. Also, a child’s inheritance is directly related to a Guardianship determination because the Guardian will likely be in control of the minor child’s inheritance in order to provide for the child’s health, education, maintenance and support. If a Guardian is not designated, under California law a court must designate a Guardian to take care of any minor children. When the promise of a sizeable inheritance or life insurance pay out to the children is dangled in front of a proposed Guardian, assuming a Guardianship role over a child is much more appealing and can lead to self-interest. This can lead to drawn-out legal battles to establish Guardianship rights before a court of law.
Younger and older parents should plan, as early as possible, for the possibility that they could leave behind minor children.
Possible Guardianship contests highlight the importance of planning for the untimely scenario that a couple may leave behind minor children. Whether the couple is younger or older, it is essential for them to select a trusted family member or loved one to assume the role as a Guardian for any children left behind if both parents die before the children reach 18. This should be done as early as possible in the children’s’ life and should involve a conversation with the designated Guardian in order to ensure that the Guardian will assume the role and understands the importance of such designation. This designation virtually eliminates the possibility of Guardianship contests based on financial gain and should put parents at ease knowing that someone trusted would provide for their children.
The attorneys at Alavi & Broyles understand that choosing a Guardian for minor children is an important decision. The decision should be well thought out and properly memorialized as to reduce the possibility for contests down the line. The attorneys can assists clients plan for potential Guardianship and put parents’ minds at ease knowing that their children will be taken care of, no matter the circumstances.
Max Alavi focuses on assisting clients establish effective and secure vehicles for passing their assets to their loved ones and protecting their families from the uncertainty and expense associated with probate and testamentary guardianship matters. He is also dedicates a significant portion of his practice to complex probate matters, trust administration and litigation of contested trusts.
Max Alavi, Attorney at Law, APC has 6 locations in Orange County and Los Angeles County, California