A legal guardian must be appointed for a person who is under 18 and whose parents have died or are declared unfit. The process of obtaining legal guardianship of a minor often represents a significant life change for both the minor and the person who is applying to be their guardian. The child’s welfare is on the line and there can be significant financial resources at stake. Appointing the wrong legal guardian can be disastrous.
If you have been asked to become a child’s guardian or are preparing for the future welfare of your child, you need to understand how Ohio guardianships work, how to apply for legal guardianship of a minor, what guardianship means, and your legal obligations once you are appointed.
Why Are Legal Guardians Required?
In Ohio, a child is legally considered an adult when they turn 18. When a child is under age 18, a guardian is required to protect the child’s health, well-being, upbringing, and education; and, in some cases, to help the child manage their financial affairs.
When a child has at least one competent parent living, the child’s parents are considered the child’s guardians. If, however, both of the child’s parents die, have been deemed incompetent or unfit, or have surrendered their parental rights, the child will need a legal guardian.
Types of Legal Guardianship of a Minor
Ohio recognizes three different types of legal guardianship of a minor.
Guardianship of the Person is granted when the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to provide the child with care and guidance, or when the child’s interests would otherwise be better served by appointment of a legal guardian.
Guardianship of the Estate is granted when the child has assets valued at more than $25,000, in which case legally authorized assistance with financial administration is required.
Guardianship of the Person and Estate is granted when control of both the child’s well being and their assets is necessary.
Who Can Apply for Legal Guardianship of a Minor?
Anyone who has ties to the child can apply to become the child’s legal guardian. Courts often prefer that a family member become a child’s legal guardian, especially when it comes to the child’s care and upbringing. With regard to a guardian of the child’s assets, courts may prefer an accountant or another professional.
A minor who is over 14 can nominate a guardian. A child’s parents can also nominate a guardian by leaving instructions in their last will and testament.
The probate court that has jurisdiction over the minor remains a excellent guardian over the child. Any guardian who is appointed must obey all court orders. The court exercises its supervisory authority by reviewing required financial accountings, reports, citations, visitations, investigations, and removal proceedings.
Anyone who is not an attorney and wishes to become the legal guardian of a minor is required to attend a free guardianship training program, which is periodically offered by probate courts throughout Ohio.
How Do You Get Legal Guardianship of a Minor?
To become a child’s legal guardian, you must file an application for guardianship in the probate court in the jurisdiction where the child resides. A guardian who has control over a child’s assets must be bonded by an insurance company. The bond must be in an amount that is at least twice the value of the child’s assets and must be completely paid before the application is submitted.
Once the application for guardianship has been submitted, the probate court will schedule a hearing to review the applicant’s qualifications and notify the child’s nearest living relatives. If the child’s parents are still living, they will be notified. The child is usually not required to attend the hearing, but the applicant must attend. If the applicant meets the requirements to serve as a legal guardian, they will be appointed, unless the guardianship is successfully contested.
A person who objects to the appointment of a legal guardian can file an objection with the probate court. The court will listen to the objections during the guardianship hearing and will make a decision to appoint a guardian (assuming the applicant meets the guardianship requirements).
Anyone with an interest in the child’s welfare, including the child themselves, can contest a guardianship. When a child contests the appointment of a guardian, an attorney must be hired or appointed to represent the child.
RKPT Provides Assistance with Legal Guardianship of a Minor
Guardianship of a minor is a serious responsibility and one that courts do not take lightly. If you are considering applying for guardianship, were named as a guardian in someone’s Will, or wish to contest a guardianship, experienced legal representation is critical.
At RKPT, our personal planning lawyers can assist with preparing and filing an application to become the legal guardian of a minor. We can answer your questions, assist with the application or objection to an application to become a legal guardian of a minor, and represent you in court. In some cases, the best alternative is to avoid legal guardianship of a child’s estate by setting up a trust for the minor. Whatever the specifics of your situation, our lawyers will listen carefully, develop a legal strategy to meet your goals, and help you achieve them.
To learn more, contact the lawyers at RKPT today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.