Guardians and Trustees- What’s the Difference?
- Written by Chris C Jones
- Published: 20 October 2015
Who will care for your minor children in case something happens to you and your partner? Who will help 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 their 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, he or she provides 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 the 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 the assets it owns. While a guardian of the estate manages the child’s property, a trustee manages the child’s trust assets. If the terms of the trust so provide, 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.
When making these decisions, it is important to discuss your alternatives with your partner, relevant family members, proposed designees and estate planning lawyer. Consider all of your options; many choices could be available to you.
- The Estate Planning Team
Rogers Sheffield & Campbell, LLP
This article is not intended to provide legal advice. For legal advice on any of the information in this post, please use the form to the right or contact us by phone at 805-963-9721.