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What’s the difference between godparents and legal guardians?

On Behalf of | Nov 24, 2023 | Guardianships |

A lot of parents think that if their child has one or more godparents, there’s no need to name a designated legal guardian in their will. That’s not the case.

Godparents can play a significant role in a child’s life, or they can have merely a symbolic role. The naming of godparents has traditionally been associated with Catholicism, where their role is to be a child’s spiritual advisor and ensure that they continue in the Catholic faith if their parents should both pass away. Many non-Catholic children also have godparents — generally to serve as a source of guidance and wisdom in addition to their parents and if they’re no longer around.

Godparent isn’t a legal designation

Making someone the godparent of your child doesn’t give them any legal rights or authority over your child should you pass away. That requires naming them in your will as your child’s designated legal guardian. It also may require a lot more consideration – both by you and the person you choose because it’s a big responsibility should they be required to take it on.

You can certainly choose someone to be both – as long as they’re agreeable to it. However, the person whom you would like to be your child’s spiritual advisor or mentor may not be appropriate to be their guardian. Further, some parents choose a different godparent for each child. It’s rarely a good idea for siblings to have different designated legal guardians.

A person can be both

As noted, if your child has a godparent, you can ask them if they’re willing to be their guardian should the need arise. If you choose someone else as a guardian, it’s best that they know who the godparent is and be agreeable to letting that person continue to have a role in your child’s life.

To learn more about how to choose a legal guardian, what kind of things you need to discuss with them before they accept or decline and how to codify your choice, it’s smart to get experienced legal guidance.