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What happens if I die before naming a guardian for my child?

Our children are our most valued assets.  While none of us want to consider the possibility of dying and leaving our children behind, it is imperative that Florida parents take action now to protect their children in the event of an untimely death or incapacity. More than 60 percent of parents do not have a named guardian for their children.  Absent a named guardian, the Florida courts will be forced to select a qualified guardian for your child.  Your estate plan can protect your children from uncertainty and give you peace of mind knowing that a trusted individual will care for them, if necessary.  

Who Will Care for My Child If I Do Not Name a Guardian?

All minor children must have a guardian.  As parents, you are your child’s legal guardians.  If your child loses both parents or both parents become incapacitated and you did not have an estate plan in place, the court will be required by law to appoint a guardian for your child.  Members of your family or any other person interested in the child can petition for guardianship through the court.  The court will select from those parties available and desiring to raise your child.  The individual selected may not necessarily be the same person you would have named.

Naming a Guardian for Your Minor Child

Rather than leave your child’s potential guardianship designation up to chance, parents can nominate a guardian for their minor children as part of their estate plan.  With a legal document, you can indicate your preference of the individual who will have legal responsibility for your child’s person and property in the event you die or become incapacitated.  

Your guardianship designation should ideally list at least a first and second choice, or even more alternatives, in case your first choice guardian is unable to fulfill the role.  You should additionally consider all potential circumstances that could arise with the guardianship.  For instance, if you name a couple to raise your minor child, you should prepare for the possibility that they could divorce.  Consider the guardian’s financial resources and use your will to prepare for your children in the future.  Contact an estate planning lawyer for help with drafting your comprehensive estate plan today.