Being prepared for your child's future includes choosing a legal guardian. Here's expert advice on finding the right person.
Will our wishes definitely be carried out?
Yes, as long as the guardians don't change their minds and the state approves. "The state has the authority to not follow the parents' wishes," says Sarah Ramsey, director of Syracuse University College of Law's Family Law and Social Policy Center in New York. "But generally, it will approve the choice as long as the parents' wishes are reasonable and the appointment was in the child's best interest." A judge might not sanction your choice if, for example, the prospective guardian has been found guilty of a crime.
What if we didn't appoint a guardian?
Family members or friends would have to petition the state for permission to take your child. If several people wanted guardianship, there could be a complicated dispute over which one receives it, Brandt says. If nobody elected to be the guardian, your child would become a ward of the state.
Picking A Temporary Guardian
If you go out of town and have to leave your child with a sitter, you need to give her permission to consent to medical care should your child become sick or injured. "Physicians are able to provide lifesaving care to anyone without consent," says Sarah Ramsey, director of Syracuse University College of Law's Family Law and Social Policy Center in New York. However, nonemergency care--treatment for an ear infection, for example--requires consent.
A handwritten note is usually fine. Explain that your sitter has permission to obtain medical care for your child, and sign and date the note. Include a copy of your child's health insurance card, his pediatrician's name and phone number, and any other pertinent health information, such as drug allergies.