"Naming guardians for minor children is the first thing
on the minds of parents we meet with."
- Karen Estry, Esq.
A guardian can be named in a will to raise and care for a minor child in the event that both parents become unable to before the child turns 18 years old.
Naming a guardian for minor children is a primary concern for parents wishing to get their estate in order, should one or both parents die unexpectedly.
While children can't be "left" to someone in a will, a will is used nonetheless to name the parents' first and backup choices for legal guardians for their minor children. Courts will usually comply with the named guardians in a will, but aren't required to, and won't if a valid reason exists not to, such as the choice being contested by someone more fit or appropriate for the role, or if the named choices are shown to be unfit.
A child's trust is often formed by parents wishing to provide for their minor children, in the event the parents are no longer able to.
In a trust, the person named as trustee is the manager of the property left for the children. The children are named as beneficiaries, and will receive the trust property themselves at a later date, once they are no longer minors.
Until then, the trustee has the responsibility of managing the property of the trust for the benefit of the children.
Usually, the same person is named as guardian for the children and as custodian or trustee of the property left for the children. However, this doesn't need to be the case. If one person is ideal for raising and caring for the children, and another better suited to look after the financial side of things, then the roles can be split accordingly.
Whoever is named as the trustee or property manager will be entrusted with paying for the living expenses, healthcare costs, and education needs of the children, as provided for in the trust left for that purpose. Depending on the amount of funds involved, the property manager may wish to hire outside help, such as an accountant.