One of the most difficult decisions that parents have to decide is who should take over as a legal guardian when the parents themselves are no longer able to make decisions for their children, or provide the needed care to their children. The selection of a guardian applies not only to disabled and non-disabled minor children, but also to adult disabled children who are under legal guardianship.
Your selection (preference) of guardian should be included in your Last Will & Testament that is properly drafted and meets all the statutory requirements. However, the actual legal appointment of the guardian will be made by a judge. As the parent, and person who without a doubt has the best interest of your child in mind, your documented selection of a guardian is very critical to help the judge make this important decision.
What else should parents know?
- You can always change your mind about who you select as guardian. This can easily be done by updating your Last Will & Testament.
- It is good practice to choose an alternate guardian in the event your first choice is unwilling or unable to take on the responsibility.
- The guardian does not have to be family member. The most important factor is who will best be able to assume the role.
- You can also document who you do not wish to be guardian and provide your reasoning for the judge to take into consideration when making the appointment.
- For a disabled adult, a guardian is not necessarily the day to day caregiver, but someone who will be responsible to make sure your son or daughter is receiving the care they need in the appropriate living arrangement.
What are characteristics of a good guardian?
- Familiarity with your son or daughter;
- Financially stable & responsible;
- A team player- able to work effectively with school staff, government workers, a trustee, and other family members;
- Ability to be a strong advocate for your child;
- Open minded and not rigid: A person who would encourage your child to be as independent as possible and not limit them because of their disability;
- Knowledgeable on how to navigate systems;
- Respectful of your child as an individual.
Above all, don’t delay this critical decision. Parents always report a greater peace of mind once they’ve completed having their affairs in order, in regards to their children and the issue of guardianship. You can always change your mind about the guardian you’ve selected if circumstances change at a later time.
Remember that it is better to have a good plan today, than a perfect plan tomorrow!