Last week, my sister-in-law asked my husband and I to be the godparents of her soon-to-be-born daughter. Of course, we ecstatically agreed! We excitedly began discussing details surrounding the role we had just accepted – flying to California for the baptism, and future anticipated events – including her eventual wedding. Needless to say, we are quite excited to start playing a role in this child’s life! Then my husband said, “And now if something were to happen, we would become the guardians.”
This conversation reminded me of a common misconception that exists – that if a child has godparents, those individuals will become the child’s legal guardian should both parents become deceased while the child is still a minor. However, this is not true. While my husband and I would gladly act as guardians to our soon-to-be goddaughter should the need arise, godparents and guardians are two separate and distinct roles.
Generally speaking, a godparent is someone who is named to support and guide the child in their faith. Normally used in churches of Christian denomination, the godparents sponsor the child’s baptism, and makes a profession of faith for the child being baptized. This designation does not grant the legal authority to the individual(s) to act as legal guardian, and does not legally appoint them as guardian. However, traditionally the godparent was viewed to be the person who would be the guardian if the child’s parents were deceased, which led to this common misconception.
A guardian is a person who is formally named in a Will. Should both parents pass away or be unable to care for their child(ren), the court generally would appoint the individual(s) who have been nominated as guardian(s). The godparents can also be named as the nominated guardians in the Will, but it is important to make certain this additional step is taken. It is also okay to name separate individuals for the roles of godparents and guardians. Furthermore, you can update/change who is nominated as guardian by simply updating your will.
A number of considerations go into naming godparents and guardians of your children. The role of guardian of a child presumably has much more responsibility than that of a godparent. If you want to legally nominate an individual to act as guardian of your minor child, it should be done in a valid will. Without this in place, a judge will ultimately decide who should be named as guardian. Schromen Law, LLC works with clients to ensure guardianship of their minor children is planned for – from providing guidance and counsel in the process of choosing guardians, to drafting the legal documents necessary to have in place.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.