A golf club and golf ball to represent Brian Harman winning The OpenWhile watching the final round of The Open, I listened to the announcers discuss that Brian Harman's family was not with him as he was completing his round and winning the tournament. According to the announcers, his wife was on a pre-planned vacation with their children and his parents were on their own vacation, so he was about to win the largest tournament of his career without any of his family around.

Aside from the fact that it probably would have been better to have his family there when he finished the tournament, it caused me to think back to a consultation from a week or so ago where we discussed temporary guardianship designations as part of the client's estate plan. It came up because it's not as common in estate plans as it probably should be. It normally comes up when a client is getting ready to go on a trip without their children and they need to designate a grandparent or someone else to watch the children while they are gone.

In the case of Brian Harman, a temporary guardianship designation wouldn't be necessary because it sounds like his children were with his wife on a pre-planned vacation. However, if she chose to leave them with someone and travel to Liverpool to be with him as he won The Open, then a temporary designation of guardianship would have been very helpful for the situation.

What is a Temporary Guardianship Designation?

Temporary designation of guardianship is a legal arrangement that allows for the appointment of a guardian to make personal decisions on behalf of an individual who is in need of immediate assistance but may not require permanent guardianship. This provision is essential when urgent decisions must be made, and there is no time to go through the standard guardianship process.

In order to avoid having to go through a formal court proceeding, a temporary guardianship designation says that you are giving someone the temporary right to act as the guardian for your children. It’s not meant to be a forever designation. It is usually helpful to use when you are going on a short trip. Sometimes, your children’s doctor or other providers will want to see the document if services need to be provided to your children while you are gone.

Many people think that a temporary guardianship designation has to be a long document. But in reality, it’s usually a couple of pages long. Depending on where you reside, there are different requirements. But generally, you’ll need the following information:

  • Your information
  • Your children’s information
  • Who’s going to be the temporary guardian
  • How long the temporary guardianship will last

I’ve jokingly told various seminars I have spoken at that you can write it on a napkin. If you had the right information, you could do it that way. But most people prefer a more formal document, prepared by an attorney and signed in an attorney’s office. In fact, you can probably set up the appointment and have it prepared while you are in the conference room. Just bring the information and you’re all set.

What Happens if I Don't Have a Temporary Designation of Guardianship?

Without temporary designation documents, your family members would have to go through the formal process for obtaining a temporary designation of guardianship, which includes the following steps:

  1. Filing a Petition: The person seeking temporary guardianship (the petitioner) must file a petition with the appropriate court, providing details about the individual in need of guardianship and the reasons for the temporary appointment.

  2. Emergency Hearing: In emergency situations, the court may conduct an expedited hearing to determine whether immediate temporary guardianship is necessary. This ensures that critical decisions can be made promptly.

  3. Appointment of Temporary Guardian: If the court finds sufficient evidence to warrant temporary guardianship, they will appoint a suitable individual as the temporary guardian. The temporary guardian will have the authority to make necessary decisions until the temporary guardianship period expires.

  4. Duration of Temporary Guardianship: Temporary guardianship typically lasts for a specific period, such as 60 days, after which it automatically terminates.

While these four steps may seem simple and straightforward, they can take some time to allow the court to process and if your family needs to hire an attorney, that's an additional expense they weren't likely planning on incurring because they agreed to watch your kids while you went on vacation.

If you have an upcoming vacation planned without your kids, make sure you've got this document in place before you leave to avoid any headaches for those who are taking care of the kids!

Do You Need an Estate Plan?

If you need an estate plan or just need a temporary designation of guardianship for an upcoming trip, let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session online or by calling my Edina, Minnesota office at (612) 294-6982 or my New York City office at (646) 847-3560. My office will be happy to find a convenient time for us to have a phone call to review the best options and next steps for you to work with an estate planning attorney to get your plan prepared and implemented.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
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