In my will, can I name multiple people to take care of my kids?

I can’t decide on who I want to be the guardian of my kids should I pass away. Instead of picking one person, can I name multiple people and have them decide amongst themselves?

Dan

Dan

Port Moody, BC

One of the most difficult parts of estate planning is choosing someone to take care of your kids should you pass away while they are still minors. In BC, this is called appointing a guardian. If you die without appointing a guardian (and you were your child’s only guardian), the Ministry of Children and Family Development will become the default personal guardian for your minor child. Someone else could apply to the court to become guardian, but that will take time and cost money. For this reason, most parents name a guardian for their young children in their will.

When it comes to providing instructions in the will, simpler is usually better, as explained here. Leaving complicated instructions (for example, naming multiple guardians and leaving it to them to decide who takes over) can lead to problems down the road.  

One way to make sure your children will be raised how you’d like is to choose a guardian who shares your values and ideals. Have a conversation with each person you think might be a good choice. Make sure they’re willing to do the job — it may be more than some people want to take on. Once you’ve discussed it with each of them, pick one person to be the primary guardian. You should also choose one or more alternate guardians. This is someone who will step in if the primary guardian isn’t able to act. 

Two other things to be aware of:

  • Your will should create a trust for gifts you leave to any minor children. Otherwise, their share of the estate may need to be paid to the Public Guardian and Trustee — and they’ll hold onto it for the minor in trust until they turn 19. This is explained here by a lawyer who works for the Public Guardian and Trustee.

  • In your will, your trustee will be in charge of managing and paying out any gifts and money you left for your children, while your guardian will physically be taking care of them. They can be the same person.

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith

Retired lawyer and consultant
  • Reviewed in December 2021
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

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