It is generally understood that if one parent dies, the surviving parent receives sole custody of their children. The custodial parent can be biological or adoptive. Sometimes, the unthinkable happens and both parents die without appointing a guardian in the event of their deaths, leaving the question of who can best manage the child’s welfare and assets uncertain. Any unmarried minor under 18 in Connecticut must have a guardian.
Guardianship vs. parental rights
It is preferable to appoint full custody of the children to the surviving parent after one parent dies in Connecticut, the exception being when the parent has been found to be unfit or their parental rights were terminated. A similar dilemma happens when both parents die since someone else must be appointed as the child’s guardian in either scenario.
Custody is different from guardianship because it is the permanent legal responsibility of a parent. Guardianship is often temporary, lasting until the minor reaches the age of puberty. It involves a non-parent who acts as guardian taking on the responsibilities of making everyday decisions for the child’s care and welfare and taking care of the child’s assets. Non-parent kinship caregivers, the minor’s attorney, or anyone with physical custody may be granted temporary custody of the child. A standby or testamentary guardian appointed by the parents can also receive custody.
Who is most preferable as a child guardian?
The child’s next of kin are the preferable choices for obtaining guardianship. Priority is first given to the surviving parent, then grandparents and other relatives.
The following factors determine the vetting of appropriate guardians:
- The child’s needs
- The child’s relationship with their potential guardian
- The child’s living situation
- The health of each party
The benefits of making an estate plan
Parents can do much to prepare for the future of their children in the event of an unforeseen tragedy. Sometimes, the person who will receive legal guardianship of a child might not be suitable for managing their assets. Creating an estate plan appoints a Conservator of the Estate to responsibly manage the child’s money and property for them until the child turns 18, after which they will turn the assets over to them.