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Paul Walkers Will and Naming a Guardian as a Single Parent

Paul Walker’s will names his mother as the Guardian of his daughter Meadow, and a Petition has been filed by his mother Cheryl requesting that she be named as guardian of Meadow.  The will names Cheryl as Guardian of the Person and Estate of any minor children Paul had at his death.  When the Court decides who will be the Guardian the Judge will need to decide two issues; the first will be who will be in charge of the finances and if Cheryl is qualified she can be appointed as the guardian of the finances.   If Cheryl does not qualify the court will appoint a professional fiduciary to serve. The Court will make sure that the money is not stolen or spent.  Since Paul Walker did not create a Trust in the Will or separate from the Will, Cheryl or anyone appointed will only be in charge of the funds until Meadow is an adult (18 Years Old).  The nomination of Cheryl by Paul is only advisory as to the person of Meadow, her mother is the legal guardian as her parent regardless of what Paul’s will says.  Meadow’s mother will have priority over Cheryl. The remaining parent is the legal guardian unless they agree to their rights or establish that it is in the child’s best interests that a guardian be appointed.  Paul Walker’s wishes will be one factor the Judge will consider.   Meadow is 15 and her wishes will have more impact than her father’s since she is old enough that her opinion will matter to the Court.
Despite the fact that the Judge will not automatically grant custody to the grandmother because she is named as the guardian in the Will, it is important to name a guardian in the will. In California a Judge must appoint a guardian. However, a Judge has little time to get to know a child or the people who wish to care for the child, thus the Judges consider the guardian named as a presumed best choice.  This means it is important for a parent to name a guardian. If the parent is raising their child and not living with the other parent should not only name a guardian if the other parent is not suitable, but also should document any domestic violence, any arrests, any convictions and any other information they have as to why the other parent is unsuitable as this information can be difficult if not impossible for the guardian or their attorney to obtain.  The attorney who prepared the Will should be given permission to provide this information to the proposed guardian and their attorney (otherwise the attorney client privilege could prevent the preparing attorney from sharing that information.

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