If a family member, spouse, or friend has died and made you their children’s legal guardian, you may be contemplating adoption as the next step.
To know if this decision is right for you, you should understand the differences between adoption and legal guardianship.
You may become the legal guardian of minor children when both their parents die. Whether the parents granted you custody of the children in their will or the courts appointed guardianship because there was no will, you have legal responsibility for the children. You oversee their financial, medical and educational decisions and provide the love and care for their emotional well-being.
This arrangement only lasts until the children turn 18. While you may remain close after they become adults, you no longer have any legal obligation to their care.
Adoption is similar to legal guardianship as you are responsible for guiding and nurturing the children and making decisions regarding the minors’ health and financial well-being. However, adoption is permanent and does not end when the children become adults.
One advantage of this permanence is that your adopted children have the same right to inheritance as your biological children. When you die, your assets get divided equally among all your children, even if you do not have a will specifying the division.
As a legal guardian of children, you have the option of making them permanent members of your family. Since this choice is non-reversible, all family members should discuss the life-long impacts before deciding.