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Legal Guardianship if Both Parents Have Died


No child should have to lose their parents before they become adults. Ideally, every child should have access to two loving parents who care for them and see to their needs until they reach adulthood. Unfortunately, that isn’t always how things go. Sometimes children are bereaved of their parents and need someone else to care for them for a time. To establish guardianship if the parents die, some legal documents must be properly procured and processed.

A Legal Petition

If you have an interest in a minor child’s welfare and wish to become their guardian, you may file a legal petition with the district court in the county in Utah where the child resides that requests a guardian be appointed. If the child’s parents have executed a written instrument naming a guardian, this must be included with the petition.

Typically, the petitioner is the person who wishes to become the guardian, though it is possible to petition to have another qualified adult be named as the minor child’s guardian. The most important factor that the court will consider when choosing a guardian is whose guardianship appointment would be the best interest of the child. Such consideration often includes the proposed guardian’s ability to meet the child’s physical, mental, emotional, and moral needs.

A Copy of the Parents’ Death Certificates

When guardianship is being sought due to the passing of the minor child’s parents, it will be necessary to file a copy of the parent’s death certificates along with the petition for guardianship. Vital record certificates (including death certificates) can be ordered online, in person, or by mail. Because certificates can be requested by the person of record (not you, in this case), an immediate family member, a legal guardian, or a designated legal representative, you may need some help getting this document, depending on your relationship with the deceased parents.

Children 14 and Over

If the child in question is over the age of 14, they must be given written notice of acceptance of an appointment to be a guardian by the proposed guardian.  The child then could file an objection in the court where the petition is filed within 30 days of having received such notice.  Failure to provide such notice could result in the hearing to address the proposed appointment being rescheduled or the court being unable to appoint the guardian.

A Certificate from the Local Police Authority if the Child is Over 11

If the minor you wish to receive guardianship over is over the age of 11, you’ll need to visit the local police authority that has jurisdiction over where the child has lived for the past 2 years. You’ll need to obtain a certificate from them that states that the minor hasn’t had any criminal charges filed against them and that they aren’t the subject of a criminal investigation in that jurisdiction. Once obtained, that certificate must be filed with the court. A copy should be provided to the superintendent of the school district where the child will attend school if they are placed under your care.

A Release to the School District Superintendent

In addition to receiving a copy of the certificate from the local police authority where the child lived for the last two years, you’ll also need to provide them with a release by or on behalf of the minor. This release should allow the superintendent to access any and all criminal records the child may have in jurisdictions outside the state where they lived for the last two years. This must be provided to the superintendent within a reasonable time before the hearing. Again, this only applies if the child is over 11 years old.


Losing parents at a young age is an incredibly difficult experience for children. They still need plenty of guidance and care (even if sometimes that seems like the very last thing they want) from a responsible adult who is prepared to help them. Make sure you are familiar with the legal documents needed to establish guardianship after a child’s parents die if you intend to become the guardian of such a child. That will help you navigate the guardianship process as smoothly as possible, something that can only be of benefit to both you and the child.

Putting together the legal documents needed to establish guardianship after parental death isn’t easy. The amazing family law attorneys at Just Law can help! Click here to contact us today and get the help you need for your case.

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