Guardianship vs. Adoption 213

Understanding the Difference Between Guardianship and Adoption

You might think that designating a guardian for your children is the same as asking someone to adopt them but legally, the two concepts are actually quite different.

A guardianship does establish a legal relationship between the guardian and the child, but only to the extent that the guardianship permits. There are several different types of guardianship, some of which are very limited and can exist without altering the the rights of the parents.

Even if the guardianship is of the “person”, meaning that the guardian is assuming the day-to-day parental responsibilities, the parents are still financially responsible for the child. Should the parents die without a will, the child still maintains their right to inherit the parents’ estate.

Guardianships are appropriate in cases where a child needs temporary supervision until a more permanent placement can be established. This type of guardian can range from a friend or family member to a foster home or orphanage.

Guardianships are also common when the parents pass away unexpectedly and leave behind minor children that must be cared for. In this instance, the guardians have usually been pre-chosen by the parents and are designated in the will.

An adoption on the other hand, terminates the relationship between the biological parents and the child. If the parents are still living, they are no longer required to provide financial support nor do they have any other rights and responsibilities regarding the child.

Should the parents subsequently pass away after an adoption has taken place, the child will typically have no right to inherit the parents’ estate unless the child was named as heir in a legal will.

Both guardianship and adoption require a formal designation by the court to establish the legal relationship, however a guardianship can be terminated or renewed at a later date while an adoption is considered to be a permanent relationship.

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