“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” 

-Elizabeth Stone 

While it’s unpleasant to think about, it is vital to know how to choose a guardian for your child in case you become incapacitated or die. This decision is worth a lot of thought, because the person or people you choose could end up raising your child and influencing the course of their life.

Two Types of Child Guardians: Custodian and Money Manager

There are two types of possible guardians for your child, and you should appoint people to fill both these roles.

The first type of guardian is your child’s custodian. The custodian handles your child’s day-to-day care. They will be the ones to tuck them in at night, get them ready for school, guide them through tough situations, nurture them, and assume the role of a parent.

The second type of guardian is your child’s money manager. The money manager oversees your child’s finances. They will oversee your child’s inheritance until your child reaches an appropriate age to manage it themselves.

3 Tips On How To Choose A Guardian For Your Child

1. Separate the Custodian from the Money Manager

Many people make their child’s custodian and money manager the same person, but we recommend against this decision. We’ve seen quite a few instances where custodians have misused a child’s money, even in minor and unintentional ways.

By selecting two different people for the two roles, you can avoid many of these problems and secure both your child’s care and their finances.

2. Pick People Based on Values, Not Closeness

While it might be tempting to pick a close relative or friend, this isn’t always the best option for families. More than being close to you, the people you choose should share your values.

You and your child’s custodian should have similar views about the everyday care that children need. It’s even better if they already have a relationship with your child and is in tune with who they are as a person. The best fit for a custodian is someone who aligns with you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and who knows your child well.

Your money manager should be someone you know will uphold your values about your child’s education, career, and future. They should have their own financial priorities straight and be able to judge when and for what purposes they should release money to your child. They should have common sense and manage their own finances well. And, most importantly, the money manager must have the discretion to stand up and say “no” when your child wants to use money unwisely.

3. Consider Both Desire and Ability

The third thing to consider is the most important: are the people you have in mind both willing and able? Do they want to fill these roles for your children, and are they capable? Young parents often choose their own parents as their child’s guardians, but give this considerable thought. Are your parents physically and emotionally able to raise your child as you want?

When you’re deciding how to choose a guardian for your child, we know there’s a lot to mull over. But please do weigh and consider the strengths of different people before making this important decision.

Have the Conversation

Once you have people in mind for these roles, schedule a time with each of them to discuss it. Ask them if being a guardian for your child is something they want to do. If they agree, we encourage you to appoint them as a guardian as soon as possible in case something should happen to you.

The chances of you dying or becoming incapacitated while your child is a minor are slim, but it can and does happen to parents of young children every day. Choose the right guardian(s) for your child now, so that you have confidence and peace of mind about their future, regardless of what lies ahead.


Have more questions about how to choose and legally appoint a guardian for your child? Schedule an appointment with us! We’re happy to discuss your options and walk you through the process.


Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is a licensed attorney who has been admitted in both Virginia and West Virginia. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and has been practicing for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law.