Articles Posted in Guardianship

Texas flagNaming a guardian for minor children is never a pleasant task, but this situation makes a compelling argument for why it is so important. A Texas Attorney General with legal problems was appointed guardian of a large trust for two minor siblings and certain facts don’t seem quite right. That no investigation is being made makes one wonder if this is what their father had in mind.

When minors are to receive an inheritance and no guardian has been named, it is normal for a court to name a Guardian ad Litem. This is typically an attorney who is expected to represent the minors and look out for their best interests. When Tanner Hunt, the son of Texas billionaire Ray Hunt, passed away, he left behind a large trust fund and two minor daughters.

In the Hunt case, current Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was appointed as the Guardian ad Litem for the minor daughters. Questions are being asked about Paxton's role in participating in negotiations that would have potentially bought the daughters out of any interest in the Hunt trust for a substantially lower amount than they would have otherwise been entitled to.

Stack of law books“We are delighted to inform the public that the court has appointed Bobby Brown and Pat Houston as co-guardians of Bobbi Kristina Brown (‘Krissi’),” read a statement issued by David Long-Daniels, counsel for Pat Houston and Cissy Houston, and Christopher Brown, an attorney for Bobby Brown. “Both Mr. Brown and Ms. Houston are jointly responsible for decisions related to Krissi’s care and medical needs.” A court-appointed attorney, Bedelia Hargrove, will act as a conservator for the 22-year-old.

The court-appointed attorney specializes in fiduciary litigation, probate and estate administration, estate planning, personal injury and wrongful death cases, as well as general civil litigation.

As conservator, the attorney “is responsible for Krissi’s assets, including her likeness, rights and legal claims,” according to the statement read by attorneys for the family.

MP900448410No will? If you are married with young children and both parents die who becomes the children’s guardian will be up to the state’s court system.

If you do not have a will, Texas estate laws and the probate judge may decide who will get your assets if you die. And if you are married with young children and both you and your spouse pass at the same time, the judge also gets to decide who will be the children’s guardian. It’s that simple, says a post on the CBS Boston website titled, Estate Planning For All.

Think about that.

Bigstock-Extended-Family-Relaxing-On-So-13907567Without a formal direction, your wishes must be interpreted and your estate must be settled by a probate court judge. The process is expensive and encourages disputes. But divvying up wealth is a whole lot easier than handing your children off to the state to determine where they go and how their care will be paid for. Just imagine the two grandmothers fighting over custody of your children?

For many young parents death seems like a long ways away. Regardless of how one feels, Houston parents of all ages should have their affairs in order—including guardianship. New Hampshire Magazine’s May 2015 issue addresses this issue and offers sound advice through an article titled “Don't put off writing down your last words.”

If you just can’t decide on a guardian, you should still move ahead with your estate planning. It is better to have this issue undecided than to die without a will. That said, the article suggests that it’s a good idea to nominate two people. That way you have one to be the guardian of the children and a second to be a trustee of the funds dedicated to their care. 

MP900411773Although it is a difficult subject to face, you have options when it comes to protecting your estate and your family. The steps you take now can help prevent the wrong people from making decisions for your loved ones.

If you have minor children, who will take care of them in the event of your passing? Although no one likes to think about this, it is crucial that you make a plan for your Houston family.

A recent article from, titled “Protect Your Children's Future,”offers some ideas on how to protect your children. For starters, make sure to you have a will drafted by an experienced estate planning attorney. Be sure to name one or more people to be the legal guardian of any of your children you may have under age 18. [Note: In some states, like California, a will is not the only way to appoint such a guardian. Be sure to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney in your own state.]

Stern judge wagging fingerAlthough many people feel frustrated by elder guardianship systems designed to protect adults no longer able to fend for themselves, what’s even sadder are the many instances where it turns out that the elder guardianship system is doing its job properly –and strangers have no choice except to step in and make decisions that families and friends simply cannot.

Elder guardianship can be complicated. Many question if our elderly loved ones are getting the proper care they deserve in those situations.

The (Sarasota, FL) Herald-Tribune, in a recent article titled “The takeaway lesson on elder guardianship,”says that one woman contacted the newspaper writer from an assisted-living facility, saying she had been incarcerated against her will. She moved to be closer to her son, but her daughter in Arizona had her under guardianship, which permitted limited contact with her son.

MP900407501Lillian Palermo tried to prepare for the worst possibilities of aging. An insurance executive with a Ph.D. in psychology and a love of ballroom dancing, she arranged for her power of attorney and health care proxy to go to her husband, Dino, eight years her junior, if she became incapacitated. And in her 80s, she ended up in a nursing home as dementia, falls and surgical complications took their toll. He sings her favorite songs, feeds her home-cooked Italian food, and pays a private aide to be there when he cannot. But one day last summer, after her husband disputed nursing home bills that had suddenly doubled Mrs. Palermo's copays, and complained about inexperienced employees who dropped his wife on the floor, Mr. Palermo was shocked to find a six-page legal document waiting on her bed. It was a guardianship petition filed by the nursing home, Mary Manning Walsh, asking the court to give a stranger full legal power over Mrs. Palermo, now 90, and complete control of her money.

A New York Times article titled "To Collect Debts, Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients" states that few people are aware that a nursing home can do this. Guardianship cases are usually confidential, but the Palermo's situation isn't uncommon.

More than 12 percent of guardianship cases are brought by nursing homes. Many of these may have been brought as a means of bill collection, which was never intended when the New York legislature enacted the guardianship statute. Some courts have ruled that this legal tactic by nursing homes is an abuse of the law, but these petitions—even if unsuccessful—make families spend time and money in costly legal ordeals.

Baby shoesWho will be your child's guardian, and who will be the guardian of your estate? Experts say it's a difficult decision many families agonize over, and there's no one-size-fits-all scenario.

In the event that you pass away suddenly and unexpectedly, what will happen to your kids? Just the thought of this scenario is probably heartbreaking. Even so, a recent article in TheStreet, titled "How to Give Away Your Kids,"says that it is a scenario you must address. Due to the complexity of this task, the article explains that some families with young children will be "frozen in place" without making a decision.

When drafting your will, you have the option to select two different guardians. You can have a guardian for your child or children and a guardian for the property or the estate. In fact, they can be the same person if you want, but need not be. Typically, people choose two different individuals because the one who cares for the children might not be the person you would want to handle their inheritance. The two-guardians approach may require separate and distinct skill sets.

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