There can be complications in settling any estate. However, deciding who will take care of minor children after a parent's death is often one of the most emotionally complicated issues that may come up during a Louisiana succession.
Four Types of Tutorship in Louisiana
Tutorship is known as guardianship in other states. There are four different forms of tutorship in Louisiana that may apply after the death of a child's mother or father. Tutorship includes:
- Natural tutorship. When one parent dies and the other parent lives, the surviving parent usually becomes the minor child's tutor. There are some circumstances when the surviving parent can't serve or is unwilling to serve in this way.
- Tutorship by will. When both parents die, or the surviving parent is legally unable to be the child's guardian, a tutor may be appointed according to the terms of the parent's will or separate tutorship document. The tutor named in the will must be willing and able to serve as guardian of the child.
- Tutorship by effect of law. If both parents die and a tutor is not named in the last surviving parent's will, the court must appoint a tutor to care for the child. In most cases, the court will appoint a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or another close relative who is willing and able to take on the legal responsibility of being a tutor.
- Dative tutorship. Sometimes a parent dies without naming a tutor by will and without leaving any surviving relatives who can become a tutor for the child. In that case, it is up to the court to name a non-relative as the child's tutor. The court may consider close friends and other qualified people to become the child's dative tutor. If an application for a dative tutor is filed with the court and you object to the appointment, you have the right to file an opposition to the appointment with the court. Your opposition must state the reasons why the proposed tutor is unqualified and why it would be in the child's best interest for you to be appointed as the child's tutor.
In exceptional cases, a separate tutor for the child's property may be appointed by the court if good cause exists. If you want to appeal the appointment of a tutorship, you must do so within 30 days of the tutor's appointment.
What Does a Tutor Do?
A tutor has the same legal responsibilities regardless of how the tutor is appointed. Tutors must protect the child's health, education, and general wellbeing. Additionally, the tutor must protect the child's property unless the court specifically names a separate tutor for this purpose.
If a tutor fails in any of these responsibilities, a judge may end the tutorship and appoint a new tutor for the child.
Are You Worried About a Child You Love?
Children who have lost their parents deserve stable homes and good care. If you love a child who has lost a parent, you may be concerned about the child's wellbeing and want to make sure the right tutor is appointed in this difficult circumstance.
It is often easiest for the child if you present any known concerns to a Louisiana succession lawyer before the court officially names a tutor. That way, the court can be aware of your concerns before the tutorship is official, and you may prevent unnecessary tutorship transitions for the child who is already grieving a parental loss.
If you have any questions about Louisiana tutorship that concern a child in your life, please contact our Louisiana succession attorneys today. We help hundreds of families all over Louisiana each year, and we've dealt with many contentious and emotional succession issues.
Contact us today in our New Orleans office to schedule an initial consultation and to learn more about what you can do to protect the child you love.