If only becoming your grandchild’s caregiver was a simple as loving them – something you’ve been doing since the day they were born. Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple, as there are a few legal matters you must get in order first. Don’t fret just yet – this guide will walk you through some of the major legal matters you need to attend to.
If you are to become your grandchild’s primary caregiver, it is a good idea to make it a legally binding relationship. Guardianship is a legal term that refers to the relationship between a minor child and someone other than the parent – in this case, you. This form of legal custody gives you parental rights and legal custody, granting you the authority to make decisions regarding your grandchildren. So, why should you seek guardianship? If you are the caregiver of your grandchildren, it is likely due to a situation that is out of your hands such as parental incarceration, abuse, deployment, unemployment, or death to name a few. Whatever the reason, it was determined that it was in the best interest of the child to be removed from the situation, either temporarily or permanently, and getting guardianship ensures your grandchild can’t be taken away unless the legal system deems it safe and appropriate.
Now that the well-being of your grandchild is completely in your hands, you need to take steps to ensure their futures are secure, including revisiting your estate plan. Your plan should include a will, advance directives, power of attorney, and trust documents to allocate assets to your grandchildren. You should also have a plan in place should you become unable to care for your grandchildren or pass away. Don’t forget to update beneficiaries on your retirement and life insurance documents too. Now would also be a good time to create a plan for your grandchildren’s future, and a trust is a great way to accomplish this for minor grandchildren as it allows you to control how and when the money can be used, as well as what it can be used for. You might also consider future educational expenses such as college, which can be covered through insurance.
Caring for your grandchildren is really no different than when you were caring for your own children, and the same rules still apply. Start by obtaining guardianship to solidify your parental rights. Once you’ve achieved this, the next step is parenting!