For many people, the main reason for writing a will is to be sure that their underage children will be provided for. A will can be used to do two major things: choose someone to care or your child, and make sure that the child’s inheritance is used in the way most beneficial to your child.
First, you need to choose a guardian to care for your children if anything happens to you. Second, you will need to choose a conservator for your child.
What is the difference between a guardian and conservator?
A conservator is different from a guardian because the guardian is responsible for the minor’s care, and the conservator is responsible for the minor’s money. Until the child turns 21, the conservator will manage the child’s property, money, and gifts, and use them in the child’s best interest. If you leave gifts directly to your child and do not choose a conservator, the courts will choose a conservator. Since this person could have a lot of influence over your child’s life, it is a good idea to choose a conservator yourself. Be sure to ask your choice if he or she is willing to be a conservator for your child, and do not forget to select alternate conservators.
Can the guardian and the conservator be the same person?
Yes. Parents often choose the same person to be both conservator and guardian. Unfortunately, the person you nominated to be guardian might be terrific at child rearing, but not very good with finances. Additionally, nominating the same person to be both guardian and conservator is often too much responsibility for one person, and he or she may eventually resign one job or the other.
While selecting different people to be guardian and conservator is usually a good idea, you should also be sure your nominees for guardian and conservator get along since they will have to work together.
Do I have to choose a conservator if I use a trust for my child?
Not necessarily, but it’s a good idea. If you decide to leave gifts to your children through a child’s trust or the Colorado Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA), you can still choose a conservator for your child. The conservator will be a “back-up” for whatever system you use to leave your child money. Additionally, it is important to have a conservator in place in case your child receives a gift from another relative, earns money, or receives assets other than trust assets. Until your child reaches the age of majority, the conservator will supervise all property and gifts that do not come with a trustee or custodian.
For more information about planning your will, check out Planning a Will in Colorado, Bradford’s Legal Series.