Assuming guardianship of a minor sounds straightforward enough, but becoming and remaining a guardian includes significant financial commitments. If you’re considering becoming a guardian, make sure you understand the finances involved beforehand.
What Is a Guardian?
A guardian is responsible for an individual’s personal care. The guardian is responsible for providing the minor a place to live, medical care, education and other living necessities. As a guardian, you’re essentially responsible for the child’s wellbeing, just as a parent would be.
As opposed to outright adoption, guardianship allows you to provide a permanent home for a child without severing their relationships with any family members or the parental rights of the biological parents.1
Financial Responsibilities of Guardians
When you become a guardian, you make a commitment to provide. By definition, a guardian is responsible to put someone’s best interests before your own. Before making that commitment, ensure that you make a financial plan which includes all of these factors.
Responsibility #1: Legal Fees
Although the process of attaining guardianship status varies state-by-state, many require court approval. Often, this process requires extensive form filing, a home study and a court hearing.2 This doesn’t always require legal help from an attorney, but be prepared for the legal fees involved.
Responsibility #2: Living Necessities
This is a given, but you will be responsible for providing the child with a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear and any other necessities they need for daily life. These are the same financial considerations anyone thinking about bringing a new child into their life would consider, but you should be prepared for these costs to build up over time.
Responsibility #3: Education
As a guardian, you are responsible for the child’s education. Although this naturally varies with age, it will include tuition costs as well as costs for basic school supplies.
While these costs likely won’t be overwhelming if you intend for the child to attend public school, this is still one of the biggest financial considerations: are you financially prepared to pay for higher education, such as college? What about other costs, such as yearly school supplies and textbooks?
Responsibility #4: Medical Care
You will also be obligated to provide the child with adequate medical care. For instance, if they haven’t received adequate immunization, you will need to ensure that they do. They’ll also need regular medical and dental care. While the exact expense of providing this likely depends on your insurance policy, it’s still an extra expense to consider.
Responsibility #5: Recreation
If you’re looking to become a guardian, you’re most likely looking to provide a child with a healthy, caring home. This means you’re going to end up paying for more than just the bare minimum - to offer the best quality of life, there are more year-to-year living costs: gifts, summer camps, vacations, extracurriculars, perhaps a musical instrument or sports equipment for school.
Becoming a financial guardian is a big commitment, as serving as a caretaker naturally is, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Just be sure, before initiating the process, that you’ve accounted for all of the potential expenses involved in order to be the best provider possible.
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