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Parents are deceased...question about how a guardian will affect dependency status?

U.W. StudentU.W. Student Posts: 211Registered User Junior Member
edited October 2011 in Financial Aid & Scholarships
Both of my parents are deceased. My last parent died after I was eighteen, so I never had a guardian and am therefore considered an independent student.

However, my younger sister is 15 and my older sister is in the process of becoming her legal guardian. I am just wondering what ramifications this would have on my younger sister's financial aid applications.

Would she be considered an independent student, as I am? Or would she be a dependent student? Would my older sister be expected to contribute money towards my younger sister's college expenses?

My lawyer has assured me that my older sister would not be expected to pay anything, as she is only becoming the legal guardian and not actually adopting my sister. However I wanted to get an answer from people here because I know you are all very knowledgeable about the financial aid process.

Thanks in advance for any help.

P.S. My younger sister is considering schools that require both the FAFSA & the CSS profile.
Post edited by U.W. Student on
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Replies to: Parents are deceased...question about how a guardian will affect dependency status?

  • Sharath192Sharath192 Posts: 128Registered User Junior Member
    I believe she would still be considered a dependent student. You will get a lot of financial aid from colleges from what I know because guardians are not expected to pay for college fees.
    I am really sorry for your losses too I can't even begin to imagine what that would be like.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 63,281Registered User Senior Member
    I think I remember your earlier post. Again, I am so sorry about your loss.

    I don't think your sister will be considered a "dependent" of your sister as far as FAFSA is concerned because FAFSA doesn't consider guardians/siblings/grandparents/etc as responsible for contributing to a student's education.

    So, I think she will be considered "independent" when she applies for aid.
  • arabrabarabrab Posts: 4,800Registered User Senior Member
    I don't think either FAFSA or Profile would expect your older sister to contribute, but perhaps Swimcatsmom will pop in and give you the definitive answer.

    I also wanted to say how sorry I am that you are all needing to cope with the loss of your parents. I'm glad you have each other.
  • swimcatsmomswimcatsmom Posts: 15,029Registered User Senior Member
    For FAFSA a student is independent if both parents are deceased. A legal guardian is not considered a parent for FAFSA.
  • swimcatsmomswimcatsmom Posts: 15,029Registered User Senior Member
    from Completing the FAFSA 2010-2011/The Application Questions(46-58)
    53. At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
    You should answer "Yes" if you had no living parent (biological or adoptive) at any time since you turned age 13 or older, even if you are now adopted.

    Answer "Yes" if you were in foster care since you turned age 13 or older, even if you are no longer in foster care as of today.

    Answer "Yes" if you were a dependent/ward of the court at any time since you turned age 13 or older, even if you are no longer a dependent/ward of the court as of today.

    Note that the financial aid administrator at your school may require you to provide proof that you were in foster care or were a dependent/ward of the court.

    Completing the FAFSA 2010-2011/The Application Questions(59-93)
    Who is considered a parent?

    The term "parent" is not restricted to biological parents. There are instances (such as when a grandparent legally adopts the applicant) in which a person other than a biological parent is treated as a parent, and in these instances, the parental questions on the application must be answered, since they apply to such an individual (or individuals).

    If your parents are both living and married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.

    If your parents are living together and have not been formally married but meet the criteria in their state for a common-law marriage, they should report their status as married on the application. If the state does not consider their situation to be a common-law marriage, then you should follow the rules for divorced parents. Check with the appropriate state agency concerning the definition of a common-law marriage.

    A foster parent, legal guardian or a grandparent or other relative is not treated as a parent for purposes of filing a FAFSASM unless that person has legally adopted the applicant. An adoptive parent is treated in the same manner as a biological parent on the FAFSA.
  • U.W. StudentU.W. Student Posts: 211Registered User Junior Member
    Thanks everyone.

    Swimcatsmom, would you happen to know about the CSS profile?
  • swimcatsmomswimcatsmom Posts: 15,029Registered User Senior Member
    No, sorry. I have no knowledge or experience about CSS Profile.
  • collegeguzcollegeguz Posts: 182Registered User Junior Member
    You only need to do a css profile on collegeboard if your colleges say they need it. Normally private universities use it along with FAFSA to determine you financial aid package. There's more questions with the css profile than FAFSA and you have to pay for each college you do the css profile for. One my colleges required i sent my parents tax forms to college board and another didn't. Its not really a big deal but important you finish it when the time comes if your college requires it.

    Once she goes to take the SAT's you have to make a account on college board. You use that same account if you want to work your css profile on there. Its good your helping her out early. Making sure grades are good and SAT scores are good early is good.
  • U.W. StudentU.W. Student Posts: 211Registered User Junior Member
    No, sorry. I have no knowledge or experience about CSS Profile.

    Thanks very much for that info about the FAFSA...it does put my mind at ease
    You only need to do a css profile on collegeboard if your colleges say they need it.

    Like I said, several of her colleges that she is considering DO need it....
  • U.W. StudentU.W. Student Posts: 211Registered User Junior Member
    Okay, I found a little bit more information...it looks like the CSS profile will want my older sister to contribute.

    "Understanding what we mean by parents"....."If you have a legal guardian, answer questions about your legal guardian"

    Is there anything that can be done? The original plan was always to have my older sister take care of my younger sister, but for me be the legal guardian for precisely this reason -- at age 19, I have the lowest income out of anyone in my family who would potentially become the legal guardian, and therefore under me my sister would get the best potential aid. However, I live in a college dorm and really don't have all that much income, so my lawyers said it was unlikely to be approved by the judge.

    Is there anything that can be done? My older sister has a relatively high-ish income that will drastically reduce my younger sister's chances for financial aid.

    It just doesn't seem fair...my older sister is not like her parent in the sense that she was not saving up for my younger sister's college education all these years...my parents died very suddenly & quite recently. Never did my older sister ever think that she would be put in the position of providing for my younger sister financially. She would do it gladly if she could...but my sister is going to college in only three years...that just isn't enough time to plan & save.
  • sk8rmomsk8rmom Posts: 5,746Registered User Senior Member
    It's possible that a school would take the young age and relationship of the guardian into account or allow a FA appeal. They're only using CSS to determine institutional aid funding, so what they use and how they use it is determined by their own aid policies, but it would not affect her federal or state grant funding in any case. Once the FA award season is over, you might pose this question to one or more of her likely schools, but many things could change in the years to come.

    As suggested above, one of the best things your sister can do is keep her stats high enough to be competitive for merit aid (assuming her potential schools offer it). Since your sister is so young, there's a very good chance that her college list will change in the interim. As you know, little is guaranteed in regards to college funding and even a 0 EFC often won't make a college affordable, so it's best for them to plan accordingly. And you can always ask the very helpful and knowledgeable folks here on CC for suggestions when she's a junior!

    She's lucky to have both of you and I'm sure your folks are very proud of you for looking out for each other. In the meantime, it's important that your sister have a legal guardian who can devote the time and resources she needs. Good luck!
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 63,281Registered User Senior Member
    I can't imagine that any college that used CSS Profile would expect a sibling who recently became the guardian under these circumstances would be expected to financially contribute.

    However, to be on the safe side, your sister will need to apply to some FAFSA only schools as well.
  • U.W. StudentU.W. Student Posts: 211Registered User Junior Member
    Got it figured out, looks like it should be okay. I included a bit of what my sister emailed me in case anyone is searching the archives later on or whatever:
    So I called the College Board help desk and spoke to a lady who assured me (we can get it in writing if we email them) that Question #6 asks if both parents are deceased and when you answer YES it does not continue to ask you questions about parents/legal guardians income. I explained the entire situation and she said that she would NOT be required to use our income at all.
    I also called Brown financial aid counselor, and she looked into this issue extensively (I was on hold for a while because she wanted to make sure she was accurate) and she indicated that they would NOT require our income to be included in her application.
  • arabrabarabrab Posts: 4,800Registered User Senior Member
    U.W. Student -- Thanks for letting us know. I hope that everything works out really well for you and your sisters.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 63,281Registered User Senior Member
    Thanks for the update.

    Good luck to you and your sisters. :)
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