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Being Named As A Guardian In A Will: What You Need To Know

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    So you’ve been named a guardian for minor children in a will – what next? 

    Whether you’ve unexpectedly come into the role or someone has asked to name you as guardian in their will, you’re likely wondering what that means for you. In this article, we’ll cover all the basics of guardianship and what you need to know about the role.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    What Is A Guardian For Minor Children?

    A guardian is a person (or people) who are named in a will to take care of a minor child or children if their parents pass away. They are typically a family member or close friend of the testator (the person who created the will). 

    More technically a guardian is the person who manages the assets of a minor child and a custodian is the person who assumes physical custody. However, these roles are often filled by the same person  – including in a will made with Willful

    Why Would Someone Name Me As A Guardian For Their Children?

    No one wants to think about a world where a young child loses their parents, but this is the time when a legal guardian would step in. If you were named as a guardian, this means that the parents are trusting you to provide for and raise their children if they are no longer around.

    They’ve likely considered traits such as your values, educational style, location, parenting style, and other qualities and have decided you’d be the best fit to raise their children. While they hope you will never need to step into the role, they are giving themselves peace of mind knowing that their children will be taken care of in the event of the unexpected.

    In the event a guardian is not named in a will for their children, the courts will appoint someone for them.

    Learn more about how parents choose a guardian →

    What Are The Responsibilities Of A Guardian For Minor Children?

    The guardian of minor children appointed in the will take on the responsibility of raising the children. The specific responsibilities may vary depending on the age of the children and their unique situation. However, you can expect the responsibilities to include providing an education, shelter, and food and more. 

    Most parents are expecting the guardian to raise their children according to their wishes. If you know ahead of time that you are being appointed as a guardian in a will, it is typically a good idea to speak with the parents to discuss their expectations. This can be a difficult conversation, but some important things to consider include:

    • How would they like their children raised?
    • What values are important to them?
    • How would they like you to use the funds left for the children?

    This is also important information to help you decide if you want to actually take on the role of guardian in the future.

    What Are My Financial Responsibilities As A Guardian?

    In the will that names the guardian, it will typically also outline that the guardian/custodian will use the money held in trust for the children to fund ongoing care. This includes education, food, and shelter. The executor of the will (or estate trustee) is responsible for monitoring requests for funds to ensure they align with the wishes in the will

    The testator may choose to allocate money to a guardian for taking on the role but this is not always the case.

    When Would I Take On The Role Of Guardian?

    If you are named the guardian for a minor child in a will, you will step into the role upon the death of the parents. This grants you the role for three months, after which you will need to be formally appointed by the courts.

    Note that the natural parents to a biological child automatically have custody, and can therefore appoint a custodian in their will, but do not automatically have guardianship over the child’s property and would have to apply for it.

    Do I Have To Accept The Role Of Guardian?

    No – even if you are named as guardian in a will, you are allowed to decline the role. Accepting the role of guardian and stepping into a parenting role is a huge responsibility and can be life altering. If you are unable or unwilling, you can choose not to accept. This is true whether you find out ahead of time or even if you find out after the parents have already passed away.

    At Willful, we recommend parents always name backup guardians – just in case their initial choice is unable to take on the role. That being said, if you find out ahead of time that someone would like to name you as a guardian for their children, you should let them know sooner rather than later. This gives them the chance to choose another person and update their documents.

    Learn more about appointing guardians and custodians in a will →


    Please note that Willful is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice. All information in our Learn Centre is general and public information can also be researched through your provincial Attorney General website.

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