Guardians for Minor Children

Should the guardians for minor children be persons other than the trustees? - By Kurt Beasley

Parents should seriously consider naming different persons to serve either as guardians or trustees. For one thing, each role requires different expertise. Guardians should have the human skills and qualities best suited for raising children, while trustees should have the abilities and qualities best suited for managing finances. 

Even if you know people who combine the “best of both worlds,” it would be difficult for them to shoulder the responsibilities of both positions at the same time. Your guardians will be overwhelmed enough with the sudden, added burden of raising orphans and integrating them into their own family without the additional responsibility of investing, making distribution decisions, and filing technically demanding tax forms for the trust.

Another theoretical problem is that guardians will inevitably be incidentally benefited by distributions to or on behalf of your children. For example, to house your children your guardians may need to use trust funds to add an addition to their house. If your guardians are the kind of people you want-good, honest, kind people-they might agonize over decisions which would benefit them personally but which also seem to be in your children’s best interests. A separate trustee will be able to make such distributions without this kind of agony and relieve your guardians from this pain.

In addition, you may want to benefit the guardians, more than incidentally, for the great favor they will do for you in raising your children. Or you may want to make sure that your guardians’ children can enjoy the same standard of living as your children so that there is no resentment between your children and their children.

Your guardians could have a terrible time with these built-in conflicts of interest. A separate trustee will be able to follow your instructions in a balanced way, much as you intended when you created your trust.