What happens after a child is orphaned?

…and their parents assigned a guardian in their will?

I stumbled across a website that advised people to have wills, especially parents. This, they reassured the parents reading, would assure that their wishes about the child’s guardianship would be honored (unless you’re trying to keep the kid from a bio parent, but I’m thinking of cases where both have died and guardianship is left to family or friends). Nothing about how their choice assumes guardianship, though. I couldn’t find anything more by googling the topic either. I can’t find anything that fills in what happens between parents die --> child lives with new family. Now of course, this will bother me until someone explains.

So, what happens if the couple dies, and their child is not with them? Perhaps they’re at school and their folks had an accident. And with the way families are scattered across the country, the child might not be near family either - so who cares for him then, before he can be turned over to their intended guardian? Whose job is it to give the child to a guardian, the police, or social services? Even if there’s someone near to care for him, aren’t wills customarily read after a funeral? Around here that’s up to three days post-death. Does someone get to care for the child before the will’s read, or is the child put into the foster system until it’s worked out?

And what happens after the will is read, and the intended guardian says they’ll assume custody of the child? Is court involved in every case, or is that more for when they decide to adopt the child? (I’m under the impression that being a guardian is different from being a parent, legally). If you do need to see a judge to be made a legal guardian, how long does that sort of thing take? Can the child be enrolled in school, gotten health insurance etc before things are made legal? Does the prospective guardian have to do anything besides fill out paperwork?

I don’t have a legal answer, but I can tell you how I’ve seen it work in real life. I believe in general if family and friends can work out a temporary way to take care of the kid, that will be okay until you get things formalized. The law isn’t really interested in people’s family arrangements unless there are problems. Don’t know about health insurance, but school shouldn’t be a problem. Millions of kids live with grandparents our aunts or whatever and it works out.

If there is nobody around or no agreement can be reached I imagine the kid would enter foster care. Kids become wards of the state all the time on short notice (abuse, etc.) and they system is set up to handle that. I believe the state will appoint an child advocate at this point whose job it is to represent the child in any legal battles, etc.

Thanks, Even. Does anyone know more about the legal aspects?

A friend of mine works at a place in AR that’s – I don’t want to say halfway house, but that’s sort of what it is, for kids. A lot of the kids have been removed from abusive homes and they’re trying to socialize them before they release them back into society. There’s also rooms set aside for kids who come and only stay a few days – kids whose parents have been arrested as drug dealers or whatever, and they need somewhere to go while arrangements are being made. I imagine there might be some orphans placed temporarily at a place like that.