Choosing a Property Guardian for Your Minor Children

Except for items of little value, the law does not permit minors to assume legal control over property left to them in a Will. This means that if you and your spouse die at the same time, or you don’t trust your spouse to manage the money for your kids if you should die, or, if you are a single parent, you need to be sure that a responsible adult will handle the money and property you leave your children, and you need to name this property guardian in your Will. Otherwise, a court will appoint and supervise the property manager. You may name the same person you choose to have custody of your children, the personal guardian, but if the person you name as personal guardian has little experience managing money or property, you may want to name someone else as property guardian. You can even appoint different property guardians for different children if you want to.

The property guardian is responsible for managing the property you leave for your children honestly and in their best interests, using it to pay for normal living expenses, health and education needs. If you pick someone with integrity and common sense, your children’s property will likely be in good hands.

The property guardian must turn the property over to the minor when he or she becomes a legal adult at age 18, unless you have made other arrangements in your Will, such as a custodial account under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act. Almost every state allows this type of custodial account, but most end by age 21. Other possibilities are a family pot Trust, which is turned over to the child at age 18, or a child’s trust which is turned over at whatever age you specify in the Will. An estate attorney can discuss these options when you are preparing your Will.

If you cannot find an adult who is willing and competent to be your child’s property guardian, you might want to name a financial institution to fill the role. If you make no choice and leave the selection to the court, the property guardian may be more concerned with earning a fee than with watching out for your children’s best interests.