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Is a godparent the same as a legal guardian?

On Behalf of | May 5, 2023 | Estate Planning

Godparents have been primarily associated with the Catholic faith. Their purpose, in part, is to be a spiritual advisor as the child gets older and to ensure that the child is raised in that faith if anything were to happen to their parents.

Whether you choose a godparent for your child or not, it’s important to understand that this is not a role that has any legal significance. A godparent has no authority to assume legal guardianship of a child if something were to happen to their parents. If you want a godparent to be able to assume that role quickly and with minimal court intervention, you’ll need to name them in your will as your child’s designated legal guardian.

The roles can be very different

The person you choose as a godparent may not necessarily be the person best able to raise your child should it become necessary. While they may be someone who will be a good mentor and role model for your child, they may not be suitable due to age, geography or any number of reasons to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting.

If you have named a godparent, but you haven’t designated a legal guardian, that godparent would likely have an easier time getting at least temporary guardianship of your child if that’s what they want. The court would consider the fact that you chose them as the godparent. They’d look at multiple factors and consider others who may want that role.

Sometimes, parents choose a couple of people who may not even know each other to be a child’s godparents. Often, siblings will have different godparents. Many times, especially with secular godparents, it’s more of a symbolic role parents will give someone they care about. It shouldn’t be confused with that of a legal guardian.

Whether your choice of godparent is also your choice for a guardian or not, it’s important to codify your choice for your child in your estate plan. It’s also crucial to discuss your wishes with everyone involved. This can minimize conflict and confusion should someone be required to assume care of your child. Having legal guidance as you do this can help you make the best choices.