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2 types of guardians: Understanding the difference

If you are thinking of picking a guardian for your children as part of your estate planning process, you need to be aware that there are two different types. It is important to specify exactly what the guardian's role is intended to be and what powers he or she legally gets in the event of your passing.

The first type of guardian is known as a guardian of the estate. This person typically watches over your assets or money, managing them on the child's behalf. For instance, perhaps your child is just 12 years old. Your estate is worth $3.2 million. You know you do not want to leave a home and millions of dollars to a minor. The guardian can watch over the estate until the child turns 18 and the assets legally pass on to him or her. The guardian can also use the money on the child's behalf -- paying for doctor's visits, for instance.

The second type of guardian is a guardian of the person. This individual is essentially a replacement parent. If you pass away or suffer some type of injury that makes caring for your child impossible, this person steps in. They have a much more hands-on role, doing daily things like taking the child to school, giving them a place to live and the like.

Naturally, you can pick the same person to fill both of these roles. You just need to make sure you understand that there are two separate jobs here. Take your time and look into all the legal steps you need to take to get things set up.

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