Estate planning attorneys have the often uncomfortable duty to remind clients that none of us is going to be around forever. But, if you have minor children, acting on this unsettling truism can give you great peace of mind. At Gates Law Group, A Professional Corporation, we help parents make provisions for guardianships for their minor children as part of their estate plan. We also assist named guardians who need a court order to assume legal authority over a child who’s been entrusted to them. Finally, we help in matters related to conservatorships for adults who lack the capacity to care for themselves. In all these areas of practice, we perform our duties professionally and with the utmost sensitivity.
Under California law, guardianship refers to the authority of an adult over a minor child granted by the court. There are several ways that a child may develop the need for a guardian:
There are two types of guardianships, which can be held by the same person or two different individuals. These are:
Depending on the circumstances, living parents may still be able to have contact with the child during the guardianship. Also, parents who regain the capacity to care for their children can regain authority over them and custody of them.
Parents can select a trusted person to be their child’s guardian in the unfortunate event of their passing and name that person in their will. It’s important to consult the proposed guardian before taking this step. It’s also important to understand that guardianship cited in a will is not automatically effective; the proposed guardian must go to court and ask for an appointment. The court is under no obligation to grant the request but generally gives substantial weight to the parent’s preference. If the child is sufficiently mature, the court can weigh his or her preference as well.
If you are the responsible party in the life of a disabled adult, you can ask the court to give you legal authority over him or her. In California, this is called a conservatorship, but it operates much the same way as a guardianship, dividing authority over the person and the estate. However, proceedings to create a conservatorship are often much more adversarial. This is because adults who recognize their need for assistance can execute powers of attorney to transfer authority to someone they trust. By contrast, conservatorships often involve adults who are resistant to what they view as an intrusion in their lives and a loss of their autonomy. Other proceedings involve adults who have lost capacity so quickly that they can no longer execute a power of attorney.
Our family law firm provides representation for both sides of this issue. We assist persons seeking to become conservators, but we also serve adults who want to retain their independence.
Gates Law Group, A Professional Corporation assists Californians with guardianship and conservatorship concerns. Please call 559-432-9944 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Our firm’s main office is in Fresno, but we also assist clients from locations in Paso Robles and Visalia.