Standby Guardianship: An Option for Parents Faced With Temporary Illness or Disablement

Peace of Mind for Parents During the Coronavirus Pandemic

It comes as no surprise that the common guardianship anxiety shared by parents of young children has heightened during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The nagging thought of Who will take care of my children if something happens to me is now very pointedly What if I’m exposed to or stricken by COVID-19—particularly if you are a single parent or healthcare worker on the front lines. The quarantine and isolation that result can be extremely traumatic for children who may be transferred to an unfamiliar environment.

Fortunately, Statute 3B:12-72 in New Jersey allows you to appoint a Standby Guardian.  A Standby Guardian is the trusted individual you designate to care for your children if you are temporarily physically or mentally disabled. During the pandemic or in any period of disablement, this option provides you with peace of mind knowing that someone you trust will be immediately available to help care for your children.

Custody during your lifetime

Much like with a Power of Attorney, a Standby Guardian receives custody of your kids during your lifetime. The Standby Guardian Designation allows you to grant temporary guardianship to a family member or friend until you recover. A specific event triggers the start of the standby role. Even then, you are able to maintain authority in your children’s lives but require the day-to-day assistance for their physical and financial care.

The Standby Guardianship Designation has been a helpful tool for any parent who faces a scenario that will temporarily interfere with the daily care of their children. Whether part of a single or two-parent family, Standby Guardianship can come into play for parents encountering a short-term career relocation or an illness. Now, with the pervasive threat of COVID-19, the statute serves as an affordable and easily accessible option that provides you with the security of knowing your children will be protected if you are in any way unpredictably affected.

In New Jersey the statute allows a six-month period. A Standby Guardian is typically needed to provide only limited remedial help with money management or other advice and guidance. It is distinct from a Permanent Guardianship which is typically designated in your will to provide for the care of your child in the event of your death.

Easily completed process

The process for appointing a Standby Guardian is straightforward and easy and does not require court intervention nor medical documentation from your physician. You sign a written document, which is witnessed and notarized. The document identifies the triggering event, your child and/or children and the Standby Guardian who must also consent in writing to serve in the role.

COVID-19 has made all of us painfully aware of the need to have a solid estate plan in place. If you are a parent to minor children, Standby Guardianship is another component to consider to ensure that your children will be cared for should you be quarantined or incapacitated by COVID-19.

At Phelan, Frantz, Ohlig and Wegbreit, LLC, we will always be responsive and intuitive in handling the difficult questions that you have regarding guardianship or your estate planning. We are here to expeditiously and empathetically guide you through the process and ensure that your loved ones will be protected…in the face of Coronavirus and in other situations, no matter what.

Please call us at 908.232.2244 to safeguard your family’s future.