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In hearing of the recent, horrific accidents that have occurred on Utah’s roadways during the last couple of weeks, my heart is heavy for the victims, their families, and loved ones left behind. So many lives were lost too early, some leaving children behind without parents. That brought to mind an important topic I would love to expound on a bit for you. While certainly an unpleasant issue, you must be prepared if something tragic occurred to you and have minor children. Even more troubling, what if both parents pass when there are little children involved? While I cannot speak to the families involved in the accidents I referred to, I can relay how Utah courts and law usually look at this issue.

In nearly all instances, if you pass and have a minor child, the child will go to the surviving parent – absent overwhelming facts demonstrating why that child should not. Generally, it is the wishes of the last parent to pass that dictate who will care for the minor child. You can nominate a guardian for your minor child or children should something happen to both parents. To be effective, this should be in writing and should be included in your Will. Given the gravamen of this decision, it is one that should be addressed by you, not left up to other family members. What if you pass intestate, meaning without a Will? In this case, the court will appoint a guardian. A guardian is someone other than the child’s parents, over the age of 18, who has been found responsible by the courts and is acting in the child’s best interest. Typically, the courts will start with the person closest concerning the minor child: grandparents, aunts; uncles; cousins. However, any adult interested in the minor child’s welfare can petition the district court in the jurisdiction the minor child resides in for guardianship of the child. Of course, it goes without saying that the courts will always do what is in the best interest of the child. Objections to guardianship can be filed by any individual who has been served with a Notice of a guardianship petition.

If you have questions or concerns relating to this topic, contact one of our experienced family law attorneys today to discuss your options and explain Utah law to you. Don’t leave this important issue to be decided by anyone other than you.

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