What is the Difference Between a Trustee and a Guardian?

If you have children under the age of 18, then you'll want to understand the difference between a Trustee and a Guardian. This will let you make a more informed choice of whom to choose for these positions in your Will.

All parents with minor children worry about what would happen to their children if both parents should die. If one parent dies or becomes incapacitated, then in most cases the surviving parent will retain sole custody of any children. If both parents die, then usually there must be a court action to appoint a legal guardian for the children.

Creating a Will gives a person the opportunity to name who they would want to serve as guardian and trustee for their children.

It is necessary to appoint a guardian for the care and custody of your minor children. The guardian is the person you choose to take custody of your minor children if you and their other parent pass away before your children turn 18 years old.

Some people name their parents or siblings as guardians. Some people include their sibling’s spouse as guardian if they want the spouse to serve as guardian if the sibling passes away. Some people name their close friends, and in some cases they name close friends who are husband and wife. You can name one or two people to serve as guardians. If you name two people, and one of them died, the other living individual would likely be your children’s guardian.  In addition, if you name two people they should live together since you are choosing who your children would live with.

A guardian is the person your children live with, and a trustee is the person who holds the assets for them until they reach a certain age.

If you have children under the age of 18 (especially if you’re a young adult) it’s a great idea to create a Trust, also known as a Minor Children Will. This sets a specific plan for how and when your children will receive your assets. You appoint a Trustee to ensure that this plan is carried out.

A Trustee is the person who will use your assets to provide for your children financially until they reach certain ages which you choose. For example, if you want your children to receive half of your assets at age 18 and the other half at age 25, the Trustee will hold the assets and provide for your children until they reach those ages.

It is a good idea to name backups for trustees and guardians in case your primary guardian or trustee is unable to do it. Be sure to ask the person that you plan to name as guardian and trustee if they are willing to take on this responsibility. Don’t risk putting someone in the awkward position of first learning that you have named them as guardian or trustee after you die. Even the most supportive and caring friend or relative may have good reasons for declining to take on the responsibility of caring for children.

The guardian for your children can be the same person that you name as trustee but it does not have to be. You should name a guardian based on who is the best person to care for your children and who your children are likely to live with in the event something happens to both parents. You could name another individual or institution that is the best person (or company) to manage the funds and provide financially for your children.

Willio lets you create your Will and name both Guardian(s) and Trustee(s). You also have the option of creating a Minor Children Will if you have children under the age of 18. Get Started Now.