People often struggle with deciding who will serve as guardian for their minor children if they pass away. As trust lawyers, we’ve walked hundreds of families through this process. Sometimes, the family situation requires naming not just one guardian, but two.
If you leave your children a substantial inheritance (and don’t use a trust), it will be necessary to name a guardian for their estate until they reach the age of majority. A guardian of the estate is separate from the person who will have physical guardianship of the child. The guardian who has physical custody will oversee their daily care, their education, and their health matters. The guardian of the estate only deals with property owned by the minor child.
In many cases, a guardian of the child will also serve as the guardian of the estate. But, depending on the inheritance you leave your child, it may make sense to name a separate guardian for the estate. Sometimes, people will choose a close family member or friend to be guardian of the child while designating a professional fiduciary to serve as guardian of the estate.
As we walk parents through this decision, we point out the essential skills that the guardian of the estate should have. They include:
- An ability to manage the child’s money.
- They must be able to make smart investments.
- A track record of managing property carefully.
- A thorough understanding that the money belongs to the child, not the guardian.
If the parents are certain that the person chosen as guardian for the child has the skills and experience necessary, then they can confidently assign them both roles. However, if there is doubt, parents should consider hiring a professional fiduciary or naming another trusted family member or friend who would be more suited to manage your family’s finances.
If you decide that a guardianship of the estate is needed, it is best to use a qualified estate planning attorney to appoint someone to the role. This is because fiduciary duty (the highest duty the law recognizes) owed by the guardian to the child requires that all laws and rules be followed and that the child’s assets be protected. An estate planning attorney can make sure that the guardian of the estate does everything correctly.
If you are ready to get started with the process of naming guardians who can care for your kids, both physically and financially, if you should become incapacitated or pass away, our trust lawyers can help. Simply contact us by calling 636-535-2183 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.