Do your children need a standby guardian?

Did you know that scholars can trace the tradition of appointing a godparent to the second century ACE? The Encyclopedia Britannica mentions the origins of this Christian tradition in several articles, but nearly every culture has some form of honored practice of caring for orphans.

In the state of Georgia, this arrangement can move beyond a religious or cultural tradition—it can be a legal arrangement known as a “standby guardian.” In the event of you (and your spouse, if applicable) are incapacitated or die, this person can have legal authority to care for your children.

Why would you want a standby guardian?

You can appoint a standby guardian as part of your estate plan, or independently. There are many personal reasons you might choose to appoint a standby guardian. The following are a few examples:

  • Most of your blood relatives live far away.
  • You have a non-traditional family structure.
  • Your blood relatives are untrustworthy or unable to care for children.
  • Your parents are elderly and might not be able to care for young children.
  • You are the sole guardian of your children and need to protect them from their other parent.
  • You like the peace of mind of knowing who will take care of your children in an emergency.

Is a standby guardian a permanent relationship?

A standby guardianship is, by design, a temporary arrangement. It is a stepping stone or a placeholder until your medical condition improves, you have your rights reinstated, or the standby guardian pursues legal guardianship or adoption. It expires four months after the triggering incident (such as your death).

At any time, the following people could petition the original court to end the standby guardianship if they believe it is no longer necessary:

  • You, the parent
  • Stepparent
  • Adult sibling
  • Adult related to the child by blood, marriage or adoption

If you would like to appoint a standby guardian for your child, you may want to explore your legal options. The person you choose may never need to exercise their rights, but if the worst should happen, you’ll know they’re in good hands.

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