A guardianship occurs when the court orders a person other than a child’s parents to have custody of the child, to manage the assets the child will inherit, or both.
Guardianship of the Person
A guardian has the same responsibilities to care for the child as a parent would. The guardian has full legal and physical custody of the child and is responsible for making all the decisions about the physical care of the child that a parent would make. A guardian can be a relative, friends of the family or other people suitable to raise the child.
Sometimes a guardianship is needed when one or both parents are still alive but unable to care for their child due to a mitigating circumstance. A legal guardian is appointed by the court to care for a child when the parents are unable to.
Guardianship of the Estate
A guardianship over the estate is set up to manage the assets (such as money or property) a child will inherit when they reach age 18. If one parent has passed away, the court will usually appoint the surviving parent to be the guardian of the child's estate until they reach age 18.
Guardianship of Both the Person and the Estate
The same person can be appointed as the guardian of both the person and the estate; however, the court may appoint different guardians for each.
Choosing a Guardian
For many parents, the most difficult part of planning an estate is selecting a guardian in the event that something happens to them. When appointing a guardian, the court will usually consider the guardian that was named by the parent(s) first, however, it may choose an alternate guardian if it is in the best interest of the child. There are a lot of considerations to take into account when selecting a guardian. You will likely need to discuss this at length with your spouse and with your prospective guardian(s).