lang: en_US

What is legal guardianship?

Ali Katz


Q:        What is legal guardianship?

--Concerned parent

A:         Dear Concerned:

Broadly defined, a legal guardian is someone who is responsible for the care (and decision making) of a minor or dependent adult.

A legal guardian for a child is typically responsible for the daily care, education and custody of the child. A legal guardian has the authority to make day to day and, in many cases, financial decisions for the child. Essentially, a child’s legal guardian can have all the rights, responsibilities and authorities his or her parent has.

As a parent, it’s important to understand what a legal guardian is and what protection he or she can provide for your child. Too many parents fail to name a legal guardian for their child in their estate plan because they do not understand the benefits that naming one can provide, including:

  • Knowing your child will be well taken care of if you die before he or she reaches adulthood. Call this parenting peace of mind - you can’t put a price on that.
  • Providing your child security if you die. Your child will not become a ward of the state or be appointed a guardian if you already have one named in your estate plan. You can choose your legal guardian from trusted friends and family.

These benefits give you the power to express all your wishes for how your child should be raised by their legal guardian. By including your wishes in your estate plan and communicating them to the legal guardian, you can ensure your child will have his or her unique needs met even when you are gone. If you do not name a legal guardian for your child, and something happens to you, the decision is left up to a judge to make.

Despite these benefits, many parents have not named legal guardians for their children. Don’t make this mistake. Naming a legal guardian is indeed a serious decision but one that needs to be made before it’s too late. If you need guidance, start by sitting down with a Personal Family Lawyer®. They can walk you step by step through creating a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® that names a legal guardian for your child and establishes valuable protections for what you value most.