It is probably true that most of us take our lives for granted, and although we know that we should, we do not always make plans for what will happen when we pass away. Parents especially have an obligation to do this because they are responsible for the care and upbringing of their children. Some parents, as difficult as the task might be, create a plan and have a will drafted that clearly identifies who they want to raise their children if the unthinkable were to happen. In other cases, parents mean well, but somehow never get around to this important planning and then tragedy strikes. What can relatives or concerned friends do when a couple who has a child passes away without having made arrangements, for who will care for their child?
Guardianship of a minor when the parents have not left a will
If the parents passed away without leaving a will with instructions about who will care for the child, the court will appoint a guardian keeping the best interests of the child in mind when making the appointment. The court may also appoint a conservator to manage any inheritance the child may have received.
Who may be considered for guardianship in Tennessee?
According to Tennessee law, the court considers the following priority order of people who are seeking guardianship of a minor child under general circumstances:
- The parent or parents of the minor;
- The person or persons designated by the parent or parents in a will or other written document;
- Adult siblings of the minor;
- Closest relative or relatives of the minor; and
- Other person or persons.
(You can read the law in its entirety here: TN Code § 34-2-103 (2015).)
In the event of the death of the parents, the court will proceed down the list. If none of these people are available or come forward to be considered for guardianship by the court, the child becomes a ward of the state and is placed in the foster care system.
Ultimately, the Court decides who will serve as the guardian of the orphaned child. The person or persons must be willing to care for the child and provide a stable home for them until they turn 18-years-old. Of course, the best interest of the child is what governs the appointment of a guardian of a minor child in Tennessee.
If you want to step up and take on the guardianship of the child of a relative or close friend who has passed away unexpectedly, the compassionate family law attorneys at Karla C. Miller and Associates are here to guide you through the process.
Sometimes tragedy strikes unexpectedly. When parents have not made prior arrangements for the care of their children, families must sort out custody arrangements during a challenging emotional time. The compassionate Nashville family law team at Karla C. Miller and Associates, PLLC will help you develop a custody solution that works in the best interest of the children. Please call 615-391-4200 or use our contact form to reserve your consultation today.
Karla C. Miller has devoted her entire career to the practice of family law in Tennessee. She attended Auburn University and Nashville School of Law, and upon graduation in 1996, she opened her own law firm and has been assisting families throughout Tennessee since then. Learn more about Karla C. Miller here.