How Does Guardianship Work? Understanding Guardianship in Estate Planning

As parents, ensuring the well-being and security of our children is our top priority. In the realm of estate planning, appointing a guardian for your children is a crucial step in providing for their care and protection should anything happen to you and your spouse. In this guide, we’ll explore the importance of guardianship, how it fits into your estate plan, and why combining a will and trust can offer comprehensive protection for your children’s future.

What is the Role of a Guardian?

A guardian is someone appointed to care for and make decisions on behalf of a minor child if both parents are unable to do so. This responsibility encompasses providing for the child’s physical, emotional, and financial needs until they reach adulthood. Without a designated guardian in place, the court may need to intervene to determine who will assume this role, which can lead to uncertainty and potential disputes.

Incorporating Guardianship into An Estate Plan

When creating your estate plan, appointing a guardian for your children should be a top priority. Here’s how guardianship fits into the broader scope of estate planning:

  1. Last Will and Testament: A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the care of your minor children upon your death. Within your will, you can designate a guardian for your children and specify any preferences or instructions regarding their upbringing.
  2. Trust: While a will is essential for naming a guardian, it’s also vital to consider establishing a trust for your children’s benefit. A trust allows you to set aside assets to provide for your children’s financial needs while ensuring those assets are managed responsibly by a trustee until the children reach a specified age or milestone.
  3. Letter of Intent: In addition to your will and trust, consider drafting a letter of intent detailing your wishes and expectations for your children’s care. This document can provide valuable guidance to the appointed guardian, addressing important considerations such as education, healthcare preferences, religious upbringing, and any special needs or circumstances.

Benefits of Combining a Will and Trust for Guardianship

By incorporating both a will and trust into your estate plan, you can enjoy several key benefits:

  • Comprehensive Protection: A will ensures that your wishes regarding guardianship are legally documented, while a trust provides a mechanism for managing and distributing assets for your children’s benefit.
  • Privacy and Control: Unlike a will, which becomes a matter of public record upon your death, a trust offers privacy and discretion in the distribution of assets. You can specify how and when funds are distributed to your children, providing greater control over their financial future.
  • Avoidance of Probate: Assets held in a trust bypass the probate process, allowing for faster distribution to your children and reducing the potential for delays and complications.
  • Continuity of Care: By appointing a guardian and establishing a trust, you ensure a seamless transition of care and support for your children in the event of your incapacity or passing.


Appointing a guardian for your children is a critical aspect of estate planning, ensuring their well-being and security in the event of unforeseen circumstances. By combining a will and trust, you can provide comprehensive protection for your children’s future, addressing both their care and financial needs. If you’re ready to take the next steps in securing your children’s future through estate planning, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Forbes Law Firm. Serving Davidson, Cornelius, Mooresville, Huntersville, and the greater Lake Norman and Charlotte areas, we’re here to provide expert guidance and support tailored to your family’s needs.