If you have minor children, you should name a guardian for them. Typically, if one parent dies, the surviving parent remains responsible for the children. However, complications arise if both parents die simultaneously or if one parent has remarried. Unless you name guardians for your minor children in your last will, the court decides who will be given custody after your death.
Guardians are responsible for a child's health, education, and other daily needs. They are also responsible for managing a child's property (unless a testamentary trust or other trust has been created for the child - see "Creating a Testamentary Trust in Your Will".)
There are two types of guardians—a guardian over the person and a guardian over the property. The first is the person who decides where the children will live and makes other parental decisions for them. A guardian of the property is in charge of the minor's property and inheritance. In most cases, one person is appointed guardian of both the person and the property. However, some people prefer that the children live with one person and the money be held by another person.
Example: Sandra was a widow with a young daughter. She knew that if anything happened to her, her sister would be the best person to raise her daughter. However, her sister was never good with money. When Sandra made out her will, she named her sister as guardian over the person of her daughter and she named her father as guardian over the estate of her daughter.
Note: When naming a guardian, it is always advisable to name an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable to serve for any reason.