What is a 'Natural Guardian'

A natural guardian is a child’s mother or father, and in a divorce, either or both parents may be granted legal custody with guardian rights. A natural guardian is empowered to make a wide range of decisions for a minor child including medical and financial decisions that legally require a parent or guardian’s consent. In other words, absent divorce, a parent is usually a guardian, but a guardian isn’t always a parent. A non-parent may be appointed guardian via a parent’s will or by a court if a parent is deceased or deemed unable to care for a child.

BREAKING DOWN 'Natural Guardian'

While a natural guardian typically makes day-to-day decisions for a minor child, the appointment of a guardian and/or conservator by a will or court is subject to probate law and terms and rules will vary by state. An adult appointed as guardian of a minor child may also be appointed as conservator (sometimes referred to as guardian of the estate) to be responsible for financial decisions and managing assets the minor child may have through inheritance or earnings. Normally a natural guardian has the legal right to open accounts and manage money for a minor child until the child reaches the age of majority. A court can assign the same responsibilities to a conservator.

When a child with a disability becomes an adult with a disability, his or her parent may need to be appointed by a court as guardian and/or conservator in order to continue making medical, personal and financial decisions that the disabled person is incapable of making.

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