- Deciding who should be the guardian of your kids is a tough decision
- Close family members are not always the best choice
- This article discusses “What To Think About” when selecting a guardian for minor children
Questions Parents Should Ask About Guardians for Their Children
Here’s a good question I was recently asked by a father when discussing his last will. “We’re worried about what will happen to our minor child(ren) if anything happens to my wife and I”, he said “Are grandparents automatically her guardians? We don’t want that for our daughter because my parents are too old, and my wife’s mother is in very poor health. Our daughter is 8.”
So what does N.J. law say about the guardianship of minor children if you die while they are young?
You Can Name One Person(s) to Be the Guardian of your Child’s Property and Inheritance and a Different Person to Raise Your Child
In your will, you can select your minor or disabled child’s guardian(s). But, if anything happens to you, a judge in New Jersey will decide who should be your child’s guardian based on the best interest of your child(ren) and N.J. laws on the guardianship of minor Children. Generally speaking, the court honors parents’ wishes unless the nominee is unfit. When selecting a guardian you should also consider a guardian of his/her property, i.e., someone to handle your daughter’s money until she reaches legal age and beyond. In N.J. a child is legally entitled to retrieve his or her inheritances at age 18 absent a written will or trust to the contrary.
Guardian of a Minor Child’s Property
A guardian of a minor’s property need not be the same individual as the guardian of her person. Better yet, consider establishing a trust for her funds so that you can set conditions on when and how your daughter gets the money. Otherwise, she’ll get it while young and potentially lose it, squander it and make poor choices with it.
Your Child Should Have a Healthcare Directive
Lastly, I suggest you create a Designation of Health Care representative for your Minor child. This legal instrument is recognized by New Jersey law. It allows you to name someone to make your child’s healthcare decisions if you are incapacitated or otherwise unavailable. Our clients with children find that having this document provides great peace of mind.
To discuss your NJ guardianship matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., a Freehold Township, Monmouth County New Jersey Guardianship Attorney