Nominating a Guardian or Conservator for Your Children
Knowing you have taken the best steps to prepare the uncertainties of the future can provide a tremendous sense of relief. That is why Huizenga Law helps parents and guardians prepare the right documents to nominate a guardian or conservator for their children if the need should ever arise.
The Iowa laws regarding guardianship and conservatorship underwent changes not long ago, so if your family created a will or other documents providing for guardianship, you may want to have these documents reviewed to ensure that they still meet legal requirements and align with your wishes.
Guardianship vs. Conservatorship
The terms guardianship and conservatorship are sometimes treated as having the same meaning, and in some jurisdictions, they do. In Iowa, a guardian is generally a person appointed to take care of someone’s personal needs such as daily care, living situation, and medical needs. A conservator, by contrast, usually manages the financial needs for someone who is not legally able to handle their own affairs. For adults, courts are reluctant to grant guardianship or conservatorship because these actions take away an individual’s right to self-determination.
The situation is different for minors, since they are usually not considered legally competent to manage their own finances or personal care. If a child does not have a parent able to provide appropriate care, courts readily see the need for guardianship. A guardian will often handle a child’s financial affairs as well as personal care, but in situations where a child has inherited substantial assets, the court could appoint a separate conservator to manage those assets.
Nominating a Guardian in a Will
In many cases, a parent or someone currently serving as a guardian will have their estate planning attorney include provisions in their will to designate one or more guardians. The guardian role would only take effect if the current guardian—usually the parent—becomes unable to care for the child. For instance, if both parents were in a car accident and killed or hospitalized in a coma, the nominated guardian could step in and provide care for the child.
While parents may designate their choice of guardian in a will, they cannot use a trust to designate a legal guardian. Therefore, parents who have set up a revocable living trust for their assets should also ensure that they have a will with a valid guardianship nomination.
It is possible to name more than one guardian or to designate alternates to serve if the person originally nominated is unable or unwilling to take on the role. In addition, the guardian designation can be changed so long as the parent or guardian who created the document remains legally competent.
Huizenga Law Protects Families with Guardian and Conservatorship Nominations
Your child’s future should not be left to chance. If you do not nominate a guardian and something were to happen to you, the court could designate someone that you know is entirely unsuited to provide the right care for your child.
At Huizenga Law, we develop comprehensive plans to protect families in the best of times as well as the worst. If you don’t have a current guardian nomination in place or if you are concerned that your estate planning documents may be out-of-date or in need of change, contact us today to schedule a consultation and keep your family protected.