If you have minor children, selecting who will ultimately be in charge of your children if the need arises is perhaps the most important question to answer in estate planning.

While there is no substitute for you as a parent, a guardian is someone who steps in if neither parent is available, assuming the parental role and raising the child until 18.

A trustee, on the other hand, is in charge of managing the financial affairs for the child.

Who Makes a Good Guardian?

When choosing a guardian, the top factor to consider is who is the best person that will love and raise your child in a manner that you would. This includes parenting style, location, religious beliefs, interest in extracurricular activities, energy level, and whether or not he or she has children already. A guardian will provide day-to-day love, care, and support for your child.

Who Makes a Good Trustee?

As the name implies, when choosing a trustee, the most important considerations is that he or she is great with finances and trustworthy. Specifically, the trustee must be able to manage the funds in accordance with your intent and instructions that are left in the child’s trust. Consider whether he or she will honor your wishes. In short, you want to choose a trustee who will act in your minor child’s best interest within the limits you have set forth in your estate plan documents.

So Should the Same Person Serve In Both Roles?

It is not necessarily a bad idea to have both the guardian and trustee be the same person. However, if you wish to provide more checks and balances over the money you leave to your child, having a different person serve in each role may be preferred. If the guardian and trustee are separated, when the guardian needs trust money to pay for your child’s various expenses, the guardian will have to ask the trustee for those funds and the trustee will either allow or disallow the expense based on the trust terms. If the same person is serving in both roles, obviously you don’t get that benefit. Maybe this concerns you; maybe it doesn’t.

Also, if you choose two different people for the role of guardian and trustee, make sure to consider how the two get along as they will likely have to work together throughout your minor’s childhood and possibly into adulthood. Using a different guardian from the trustee will require cooperation with a common goal of doing right by the child while complying with your instructions in your estate plan.

Seek Help to Make Your Decision

While estate planning can be daunting, it does not have to be.  Contact a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to help guide you through this process. We can explain your options and advise you on the best plan that will follow your wishes while at the same time meeting your family’s needs. I strive to make the process as painless and seamless as possible.

Contact McCarthy Law Office to get started on your estate plan today!