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Why Appointing a Guardian for a Minor Child Goes Beyond the Will

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May 9, 2024 • | Curran Estate & Elder Law, PLLC
This article emphasizes the importance of not just appointing, but also connecting a child with their potential guardians, ensuring they're cared for by trusted family or friends.

Few things are as significant as ensuring your minor child is cared for by someone who loves them in the event of your passing. As you consider who to appoint as a guardian in your Will, consider fostering the relationship between your child and chosen guardians now. This article explains how you can ensure your children will be in the right hands, no matter what the future holds.

Who Does Your Child Call Family?

Imagine a scenario in which your child needs to live with someone else. Would they move in with "strangers" or family they know and love? One mother in Ohio ensured that her daughter, Kathryn, would know her designated guardians – an aunt and uncle in Colorado – as family. They intentionally scheduled a series of visits to Colorado so Kathryn could get to know her aunt and uncle. The goal is that by spending time together now, Kathryn will recognize them as part of her circle of love and trust, not just names in a legal document.

What is a Legal Guardian and How Do You Appoint One for a Minor Child?

A guardian, explains NerdWallet's article, "Guardianship: What a Legal Guardian Is, How It Works", makes decisions for a person who cannot act independently, such as a minor child. This role includes overseeing personal care, making medical decisions, and potentially managing the child's assets until they reach adulthood.

The most straightforward method is to appoint a legal guardian or guardians for your minor children and name him/her/them in your Will. This method legally empowers the guardian you have chosen to care for your children if you pass away or become incapacitated before they turn age 18.  An article from Forbes, "10 Tips For Choosing A Guardian For Your Minor Child," shares good suggestions for choosing a guardian.

Can You Change Your Mind about a Guardian?

Absolutely. Life changes, and so can your choice of guardian. Initially, you might think someone is a perfect fit, but you might need to reconsider as situations evolve. It is crucial to remember that your decision is not set in stone. Regularly reviewing your choice and considering your child’s relationship with the appointed individuals ensures that your guardian appointment aligns with your family's evolving needs.  Your choice for guardian(s) can always be changed within your Will, as long as you are living and able to do so.

Why Might Grandparents Not Be the Ideal Choice?

Many of us instinctively think of our parents as the go-to guardians for our children. They've raised us, so they may seem like ideal candidates, but it is important to consider their age and health. As they grow older, the responsibilities of raising a child, especially through the teenage years, might be too much. This does not mean they can't play a significant role in your child's life; it just means the primary guardianship role might be better suited to someone else.

Is Compromise Necessary?

Sometimes, choosing a guardian can create tension between spouses, each preferring their respective family members. Compromise is key. Perhaps one family can assume primary guardianship duties of the person/child (guardian of the person) while the other handles the financial matters of the child (guardian of the estate). It is about finding balance and ensuring your child's well-being.

What about Your Siblings or Close Family Friends?

Don't overlook the potential of your siblings or close family friends, especially those who share a similar lifestyle or whose children are friends with yours. Such a choice could offer your child stability and continuity in their social and educational life.

How Do You Choose the Right Guardian?

Consider who you would call in an emergency, who knows your child's bedtime stories and other activities, and who they are comfortable with. That person might be the ideal guardian. Remember, the perfect guardian is someone your child knows and trusts.

Why You Shouldn’t Leave a Guardianship Decision to the Courts

Leaving such a critical decision in the hands of the Court means strangers will determine your child's future. It is a situation you want to avoid. By making a choice now and writing that choice within your Will, you retain control over your child's care and future happiness.

Should Your Child have a Say?

If your child is old enough, you may want to consider their opinion. They might provide insights that hadn't occurred to you, ensuring their future guardian is someone with whom they feel safe and loved. Taking the time to develop a relationship between your child and the selected guardian will ensure they are comfortable with each other.

Key Guardian Takeaways

  • Foster Relationships Now: Connect your children and potential guardians.
  • Consider Age and Health: Consider a grandparent's ability to care for children into the future.
  • Compromise with Family Members: Find a middle ground that ensures the child's best interests.
  • Look Beyond Family: Consider naming a sibling or a close family friend who shares your values and lifestyle.
  • Avoid Court Decisions: Make a clear choice in your Will.
  • Involve Your Children: Ask an older child. Their preference can help you decide on their guardian.


While many parents understand the importance of appointing a guardian, they may overlook the crucial aspect of fostering relationships between the child and their potential guardians. By taking steps now to foster these relationships, parents can ensure that, in the event of the unthinkable, their child will be left in the hands of people they know and consider family. Contact an estate planning attorney for help appointing a guardian for your minor child and preparing a Will.

References: Forbes (Jan 29, 2020) “10 Tips For Choosing A Guardian For Your Minor Child" and NerdWallet (Jan 26, 2024) “Guardianship: What a Legal Guardian Is, How It Works

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