Who will care for your minor children in case something happens to you and your partner? Who will helped them through their day, make sure they are safe and fed, and teach them to be good people and good citizens? Who will care for their financial needs and education? While many people assume that one person will fill all of these roles for your kids, the truth is that you may wish to choose multiple people to hold different responsibilities.
What is a guardian?
There are actually two types of guardians: guardians of the estate and guardians of the person.
The guardian of the person is legally responsible for physically caring for your child: on a day-to-day basis, they provide your child with necessities like food and shelter as well as psychological needs like love, care, and affection. A guardian of the person also makes decisions on your child’s behalf regarding school, community, healthcare, culture, and religion.
The guardian of the estate is legally responsible for the assets (such as money or property) inherited by the child before that child turns 18 and becomes a competent adult. The guardian of the estate makes financial decisions regarding your child.
What is a trustee?
If there is a Trust in place for your children, a trustee will be needed to manage, safeguard, and distribute it. While a guardian of the estate manages the child’s property, a trustee manages the child’s Trust. The trustee will give the guardian of the estate funds to care for the everyday needs of the child, including food, clothing, and education – though these actual needs are physically supplied by the guardian of the person.
Who should I choose for each role?
In some cases, the guardian of the person, the guardian of the estate, and the trustee could all be the same person. In other cases, three different people could be named. For example, an adult child over the age of 18 may be named guardian of the person (for his or her younger siblings) but may not be mature enough to act as guardian of the estate or trustee. In international guardianship cases, the trustee and guardian of the estate will usually not be the same person.
A California estate planning attorney can help you better understand who you should appoint as your guardian and trustee – and the lawyers at The Law Office of Janet Brewer often help international clients with the special issues surrounding guardianship and trusts overseas. To learn more about our legal services, or to get your specific guardianship questions answered, call us today to schedule a consultation: (650) 325-8276.