Conscientious Estate Planning For Oregonians

Naming a godparent isn’t the same as designating a legal guardian

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2024 | Estate Planning

One of the key life events that prompts many people to start developing an estate plan is the birth or adoption of a child. It’s always wise to designate a legal guardian (typically in your will) who will be responsible for raising your child should they be left without a parent while they’re still a minor. 

Some people assume that because they’ve named someone to be their child’s godparent, it’s taken care of. They think the godparent will become their child’s legal guardian if anything happens to them, so they don’t need to designate a legal guardian. That’s not the case – and, in fact, that false assumption can result in legal battles after you’re gone that could keep your child’s life in limbo when they most need care and support.

Just what does a godparent do?

Godparents have long been associated with Catholicism. They have traditionally played an important role in the baptism ceremony and are tasked with acting as a child’s spiritual and ethical advisor and ensuring that the child continues in the Catholic faith even if something happens to their parents.

Many non-Catholics name a godparent for their child whom they believe will be a good role model and mentor for them throughout their childhood and their life. They have no intention of this person stepping in and raising their child and, in many cases, that wouldn’t be feasible. Naming someone a godparent can often be a way of honoring someone who’s meant a lot to you and whom you want your child to get to know. In fact, parents may name different godparents for each child.

Why you still need to designate a legal guardian

Whether a godparent is named as part of a religious ceremony or not, the title carries no legal authority or obligation. If you want to designate your child’s godparent as their legal guardian should you and your spouse or partner (if you have one) be unable to care for them, you can certainly do that. However, it’s crucial that you discuss it with the person you’ve chosen to ensure that they’re willing and able to step into the role if necessary.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing and designating a potential legal guardian for your child. It’s wise to have experienced legal guidance as you take this important step for your child.