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 .

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

See also guardianship.