You can appoint a guardian for your minor children in your will. Unless there is a significant reason not to, the court will honor your request. Once appointed, the guardian becomes legally responsible for the upbringing of your child or children.

Naming a guardian

In general, the law recognizes the biological parents of a child as the natural guardians. On the death of one parent, the surviving parent becomes the sole guardian. If the parents are divorced and the parent with custody dies, custody transfers to the surviving parent (unless the surviving parent has been deemed unfit).

Further,you can name a relative or a friend to be the guardian of your children. While you may name a married couple as co-guardians, you may want to name individuals as the legal guardians to avoid further difficulties should the couple separate.

What about my property?

It is usually easier to name the same person to be the guardian of your children and your property. It is less expensive and can alleviate a lot of problems before they arise.

If you do not want to name a property guardian, you can establish a trust that will hold the property until it is passed on to your children (when they are old enough).

Further, you can use the "Uniform Transfers to Minors Act" that will hold the property until your child or children turn 18. If you have more than one child, you'll need to set up separate accounts for each of your children.

Things to consider when choosing a guardian

There are many things to consider, both personal and legal, when choosing a guardian for your children. You should consider who will raise your children with the same values you have, and who would provide the best care and loving environment for your children. Additionally, you should consider practical issues such as:

  • Does the guardian have the space to take your children in?
  • Can the guardian afford the added responsibility of your children?
  • Do your children have special needs or abilities, and is the guardian aware of and able to handle them?
  • What financial provisions should you make for your children?
  • Should your child's guardian also serve as property guardian?

Additional resources:

Estate Plan Center: Appointing Guardianship

Child Guardianship: Appointing a Guardian

E-Zine Articles: Appointing a Guardian for Child Care

Related Legal Guides:

Living Will

Understanding Child Custody