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Guardian vs. Trustee: Can a family member be both?

The short answer is yes, it’s certainly possible, a family member can be both guardian and trustee.  In fact, that’s presumably what you’ve been doing while raising them – protecting and caring for them like a Guardian, but also controlling finances and expenditures like a Trustee.  In many cases, nominating one person or couple to serve as your child’s Guardian and Trustee will simplify the process.  It’s a rare combination (for reasons that will soon become clear) but there are certainly individuals who could excel in both roles.

But there are several reasons to consider splitting this responsibility between different representatives.  First, the roles are very different in nature.  A Guardian is a surrogate for you as parent: they should be loving, caring and nurturing and should match your values and beliefs as closely as possible. (For a discussion of factors to consider when choosing a Guardian, see my post here.)  A Trustee, however, should be good with numbers, details and record keeping.  They’ll need to keep careful track of finances, invest your assets wisely and determine which expenditures are permitted under the terms of your Will or Trust.  (For a discussion of factors to consider when choosing an Executor or Trustee, see my post here.)  These are very different tasks and although a few individuals might serve well in both roles, it can be helpful to appoint different representatives.

Second, splitting the role between two people eases the responsibility for each one.  Each is a demanding role and dividing the labor can save time and energy, allowing your Guardian and Trustee to focus more specifically on the task at hand.

Finally, dividing tasks provides a useful check-and-balance system for each role.  Many expenditures on a child’s behalf can appear to benefit the Guardian as much as the child.  A bigger house, an home addition, a new car, a computer, family vacations, summer camp . . . each of these might cause skepticism among well-meaning family members.  Having a second, impartial person approving expenditures will lessen both the possibility for abuse and the perception of it.  Consider easing tension between family members and your child’s Guardian by putting monetary decision-making in someone else’s hand.

For additional questions and help deciding on a Guardian and Trustee, or to start your own estate plan, contact Asurest today to set up an appointment.

 

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This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.