Guardianship selection is one of the most important decisions a parent can make and is a vital portion of the estate planning process. If parents of minor children pass away and have not named a guardian for the children, or there is disagreement over a named guardian, the interested parties will need to resolve the matter in court.
Reasons to Challenge Guardianship of a Minor Child
Parents may appoint a guardian in a last will and testament or by submitting guardianship forms in New York Surrogate’s Court or Family Court (or both). If the parent appoints a guardian in his or her will, the person named in the will can become the child’s legal guardian with approval from the Surrogate’s Court.
Unfortunately, there are many practical considerations that can complicate guardianship appointments. Family members may find themselves in a legal battle over guardianship of a minor child if:
- The parent did not appoint a guardian. Is a parent dies suddenly, custody of their children may go to an ex-spouse, the nearest blood relative, or another party not directly chosen by the parent.
- They do not approve of the parent’s choice of guardian. A guardian must make important decisions on the child’s behalf until he or she comes of age. If the chosen guardian is acting in his or her own interest (such as using funds left to the child), relatives may challenge guardianship.
- The appointed guardian is unavailable. Parents may have appointed a guardian who has since moved out of the country, is incapacitated, or has predeceased them. If parents did not name an alternate legal guardian, relatives may have to choose which of them will take on the responsibility.
- Parents named different guardians. In some cases, spouses will name different guardians in their wills, creating contention over who should take custody in the event of both spouses’ deaths.
If you disagree with a guardianship designation, you should seek legal advice from an NYC estate litigation attorney immediately. Contact our law firm today to tell us more about your dispute in your initial consultation.