Grandparents Who Become Guardians

Jan 22, 2013  /  By: Geoffrey H. Garrett, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Blended Families, Elder Law

When parents become unable or unwilling to continue caring for their children, often the grandparents come to the rescue. Many serve solely as a guardian for their grandchild or grandchildren, while some grandparents proceed a step further and adopt the children. Without the love and care provided by these grandparents, these children would likely become another sad case in the state’s files. So what is a guardianship? For that matter, what is the difference between a guardianship and adoption?

A guardianship occurs when the court gives someone, who is not the child’s parent, custody over the child’s person or power over the child’s property. There are three different scenarios in which a guardianship may end: (a) the court may determine the guardianship is no longer needed because the natural parents have been deemed fit, (b) the child turns 18, or (c) the child is emancipated.

Serving as a guardian is a big responsibility. A guardian will be tasked with providing the child a place to live; monitoring and guiding the child’s conduct; making sure that the child gets an education; and, providing the child with proper food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

The difference between a guardianship and adoption is the effect it has it on the natural parents. If the court grants an adoption by the guardian then that will completely sever the natural parents from the child. They will no longer be able to regain custody, or even to involve themselves in the life of that child.

Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Ways to Protect Your Blended Family

Oct 20, 2012  /  By: Geoffrey H. Garrett, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Blended Families, Estate Planning

The increased divorce rate has resulted in second, third or even more highly numbered marriages, leading to a great number of blended families.  Blended families include one or both spouses with children from prior relationships, as well as adopted or biological children from the current partnership.  Due to the complexity and nature of these relationships, it is important that the parties involved understand their states’ laws and the available estate planning options to best protect and provide for all involved.

While both spouses are alive, it’s often a common goal to ensure that care is provided for all of the children in their current blended family.  This, however, can provide a false sense of security that, should either party die, the surviving spouse will continue to care and tend for the other’s children – including making new estate planning arrangements to share the inherited estate with all of the children, both natural and step-children.  The parties may not take into account that the relationship between the surviving spouse and the step-children won’t continue in the same manner, and may deteriorate to the point the surviving spouse executes a new will disinheriting their step-children.

Some potential ways to ensure that all of your children are provided for in the way you desire include: setting aside a portion of your estate to your children upon your death; establishing a trust, which is a property interest held by one person for another’s benefit; or contracting with your spouse about the division of the estate upon either of your death.  But the best way to protect your blended family is to speak with an estate planning professional to understand your options.

Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

Blended Families and Estate Planning

Dec 13, 2010  /  By: Geoffrey H. Garrett, Estate Planning Attorney  /  Category: Blended Families

The days of the “traditional” family of Mom, Dad and two or three children are long gone. With a divorce rate at almost 50%, families are more likely to be blended: where mom and dad may bring children into the marriage and have children together. Keeping this family harmonious is a challenge. Do not let your estate planning destroy what may have taken years to achieve.

Issues to consider for blended families and your estate

  • Should all the children in the family be treated equally in your estate?
  • Should your plan for providing for the children be affected by what one child may receive from their other natural parent and that family?
  • How should you plan for your estate if both spouses have adult children from other relationships and minor children from the current relationship?
  • How do you pass on family heirlooms that may have significance for only one set of your children?
  • Are there different issues to consider when providing for a second spouse and children in your estate?
  • Can you prevent warfare between the blending families after your death through careful estate planning?

If you have managed to blend two families with minimal bloodshed, the same skills used to accomplish that should be considered when estate planning. Openness with the family is important. For instance, if one child is due to receive a substantial inheritance from his or her father’s family, you may not need to plan for the child. However, you may need to take care to acknowledge that child in some manner in your will or some smaller bequest so they know they have not been forgotten or slighted.

The best method to deal with potential problems is talk with your family members as you plan your estate. If everyone knows what to expect there will be less room for argument and hurt feelings later.

Byrd : Garrett, PLLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.