In case of minors, the subject of guardianship can be:
- the minor
- the minor’s estate
- both the minor and the minor’s estate
Choosing a Guardian
Generally the first preference is given to the minor’s parents followed by other close relatives. The most important factor considered when appointing a guardian is the minor’s best interest. If the parents are alive but deemed unfit or unable to look after the minor’s best interests, a third party can be chosen as the guardian. Guardianship is considered as a viable alternative when the minor is taken from the supervision and care of his/her parents and no one is willing to adopt the minor or adoption is not possible.
In most states the law allows minor who are of a certain age, usually 14 or above to select or at least have a say in the selection of the guardian.
Role and Responsibilities
The guardian must look after the minor’s physical well being as well as protect the estate of the minor. A guardian is also needed:
- At the time of enrolment in a public school to provide a legal residence
- To apply for public assistance benefits on behalf of the minor if required
- To apply for public housing for the minor if required
- For filing a lawsuit with the minor as the plaintiff
The guardian receives and keeps all money that is due to the minor for his or her support or care. The amount that is over and above the amounted required supporting the minor must be accounted for and preserved. The guardian is responsible for protecting the personal property of the minor and for ensuring proper education of the minor. The guardian has the right to take decisions on medical and health care affecting the minor. Usually the guardian must provide all care that a parent would provide the child.
Termination of Guardianship
A guardianship ends on:
- the child’s death
- the child becoming an adult under the state law
- a judge orders that guardianship is no longer required
- the child’s finances have exhausted (if the guardianship was only for managing the finances of the child)
The guardian(s) can also request to court to be relieved of the guardianship. In such cases, a new guardian will be appointed.