Definition: Guardian

In the context of writing a will, a guardian is the person (or persons) appointed to be the legal caretaker of a minor child or children upon the death of a parent when the child or children have no surviving parent. A testator may designate a guardian (and alternates) for this purpose in his or her will. A testator cannot use a designation of a guardian in a will to deprive the other parent of custody of their child.

A guardian is a fiduciary. Until the child is an adult, the guardian may be responsible for the physical safety of the child, the child’s property and financial affairs, or both. Before designating a person to be a guardian in a will, a testator should discuss the designation with any person the testator wishes to designate for this role. If a deceased parent has not designated a guardian when one is needed, a court may appoint a guardian at its discretion.

For the qualifications that a person must meet in order to serve as a guardian, see RCW 11.88.020 . Washington State has adopted the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act.  This act will become effective in two parts. The first part will become effective January 1, 2021 and the second on January 1, 2022, see RCW 11.130.915. Please note that starting on January 1, 2022, the qualifications required to serve as a guardian will change, see RCW 11.130.090.

Although the roles are similar, a guardian is distinct from a custodian.

See also guardianship.