We previously talked about the process of picking the right guardian for your children in your will, but another option many attorneys and families don’t consider is standby guardianship.
In New York State, a guardian named in your will has no legal authority until that person is appointed by the court after both parents have passed away (or when the sole parent has passed, in the case of single parents by choice). Because of the necessity of court approval, there is often a gap between the time that a guardian is needed for a child and the time a guardian is legally authorized. During this time, your child could be without a guardian, which means that no one could authorize medical treatment for your child or enroll them in school or other activities. In the worst-case scenario, your child could end up in state custody until a court approves your chosen guardian.
A simple document called a Standby Guardianship designation can prevent this kind of devastating situation. A Standby Guardianship designation authorizes a trusted adult to serve as your child’s guardian for a limited period of time without a court appointment. During that time, the guardian named in your will would work with an attorney to secure court approval.
The individual named in the Standby Guardianship document can also serve during your life for a limited time if you become incapacitated.
The person named as your Standby Guardian can be the same person as the individual named as your child’s permanent guardian in your will or it could be someone else. When choosing a Standby Guardian, location and availability are of the utmost importance. You want to choose someone who can be there for your child at most within a few hours. You also want someone who is within driving distance, since air travel cannot always be relied upon in an emergency.
If your family lives far away, you may want to name a friend who lives closer as your child’s Standby Guardian. When your family member arrives, your child can stay with them, even if the Standby Guardian has legal custody during that time.
At The Village Law Firm, we make sure all the pieces are in place to protect your family. If you want to make sure your loved ones are never left in the lurch, contact us about how we can protect your family.