In most states, you commonly hear the term legal guardian to describe the person that cares for and is responsible for a minor child. The legal guardians could be parents, other relatives, or court appointed caregivers. In Louisiana (because we like to be different), this legal guardianship is known as tutorship. Tutorship occurs most often when a child’s parents get divorced or one or both of the child’s parents dies. Tutorship almost always involves court confirmation, and there are certain rights and duties held by the tutor.
There are four types of tutorship in Louisiana. First, there is what is known as natural tutorship. Natural tutorship occurs when parents get divorced or one parent dies. When a parent dies, the surviving parent is the rightful tutor of the minor child. Upon divorce, parents with custody are considered the natural tutor or tutors of the child.
Tutorship by will occurs occurs when the last surviving parent dies with a will or other document naming another as their back-up parent. This declaration is most often made in the will of the parent, but it can be achieved through a separate document.
Tutorship by the effect of law occurs after both parents have died and have failed to name a tutor by will or other document. In this instance the court chooses from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives of the child to name as tutor based on their determination as to the relative best equipped to raise your child.
The final form of tutorship is known as dative tutorship. This occurs when there are no qualified relatives to step in for the deceased parents of a minor child. The judge then has the power to appoint non-relatives to care for the child.
Tutors are responsible for overseeing the property left to the minor child and must see to their health, education and general welfare. Tutors must be prudent in their management of a child’s property and their care of the child. If they fail in their duties a judge can strip them of their tutorship.
There is much more to tutorship law in Louisiana, but this brief explanation should help you understand better what will happen to your child in the event of your death or the death of your spouse. It is best to plan for the unexpected and name replacement parents for your minor children to make sure that decision is left in your hands and not in the hands of the court. All of our will plans for families with minor children include provisions for tutors for your children. If you would like to discuss ensuring the future care of your minor children, give me a call call (504) 274-1980 in the Metairie and New Orleans Area or call (985) 246-3020 in Mandeville, Covington, Slidell, Houma, Thibodaux, and surrounding areas.