Author: Hannah L. Botkin-Doty

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A Guardian Ad Litem, also referred to as a GAL, is a person appointed by the court to represent the best interests of minor children who are affected by court cases involving child custody issues, divorces or dissolutions.  GALs are required to follow rules and standards laid out in Rule 48 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio.

Unless Children Services is involved in the court case, the litigation parties are responsible for paying the GAL.  The rate charged and the deposit required by each GAL varies depending on experience.  Typically, GAL costs are divided equally between the parties unless there is a good reason to do otherwise, such as a significant difference in income between the parties.  After making an initial deposit, the parties will receive a monthly statement from the GAL’s office.

It is important that a GAL is someone a magistrate and judge can trust to conduct a thorough investigation and provide a recommendation about the best interest of the children at hearings and trial. GALs make many recommendations including where a child should go to school and what visitation schedule is best.

Because GALs make important recommendations, they are given significant autonomy when conducting their investigation.  GALs will have access to children and to their schools, doctors and counselors and any other professional or information, so they can offer an objective and fair recommendation.  GALs will also interview the parties and relevant witnesses either in person or by phone and complete visits to each home to learn more about the children and to see whether or not the children’s basic needs are being met.

If you work with a GAL it is important to be accessible, be honest, pay your retainer early, and keep up to date with payments.  When introducing a Guardian ad Litem to your child, be honest, but age appropriate. With younger children, you might tell them a GAL is a friend.  With older children, you might tell them the GAL is involved in the court case, so they have a voice in the legal process.  Never tell a child that they have to choose between loved ones and never tell a child what to say or how to answer questions.  It is best to be yourself when interacting with a GAL and to remember that a GAL is involved to give your child(ren) a voice during a challenging journey in the court system.

What’s the Difference Between a Last Will and Testament and a Living Will?

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The Last Will and Testament and Living Will are two completely different documents with similar names. Both documents state your intentions, desires and preferences should you become incapacitated or die.  Both documents are recommended as part of a comprehensive estate planning strategy.

 

The Last Will and Testament is a document that takes effect after your death and names who your beneficiaries are, usually family and friends or charities, and who gets your property. Last Will and Testaments can be in the form of a general bequest: “Everything to my spouse, then to my kids equally,” or a specific bequest: “My Warhol painting to my son, James.” Most Wills include a combination of the two.

In a Last Will and Testament, you also appoint an Executor to be in charge and to make sure that all of your wishes are followed. A Last Will and Testament is specific to you and is one of the most important estate planning documents everyone should have. Another option is to invest in a Trust if you have young children who you need to provide for, or if you have substantial assets that you want to keep out of the Probate process. Not sure whether you need just a Last Will and Testament or take the additional step to also create a Trust? Call to set up a consultation at 614-221-0944 and get your individual questions answered.

A Living Will is a health care document. It allows an individual to state their preference about life-sustaining treatment if the situation arose where they were terminally ill or permanently unconscious and can no longer make health care decisions. If the patient has created a Living Will they get to direct whether or not artificially supplied hydration and nutrition and life sustaining treatment is provided.

A Living Will does not affect the right to have pain medicine or comfort care. It simply allows an individual to make the choice now so that their next of kin or the person with power of attorney for health care doesn’t have to guess at what the individual would have wanted want in that situation.

Hannah Botkin-Doty

The Last Will and Testament and Living Will have totally different functions, but they are both essential estate planning documents.  If you have questions or want to learn about the other ways you can make a plan for estate, please do not hesitate to contact me at 614-221-0944 or hlbotkindoty@adwllp.com to get your questions answered.

Hannah Botkin-Doty

 

DISCLAIMER:  Artz, Dewhirst & Wheeler, LLP presents the information on this web site as a service to Internet users, including members of the public. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the particularized advice of an attorney.  People seeking specific legal advice or assistance should contact an attorney.