Godparents and legal guardians are not the same thing. Godparents traditionally were expected to ensure the child received a good religious or spiritual education and be supportive role models. I don’t think it ever necessarily meant the people who would take care of the child in the event the parents died, though of course it could mean just that, if the parties so decided.
It’s a really good idea to name a legal guardian for your children in your will, so that your desires are known regarding who will raise your children if something should happen to you. It avoids all of the pain and hassle of a possible custody fight, and you know the person you want to raise your kids will be the one to do so. (Of course, this is assuming both parents are dead; if not, custody of the children almost always goes to the surviving parent.) But the person named in your will doesn’t have to be your child’s godparent, nor does he or she become the child’s godparent by being named in the will. In other words, being a godparent doesn’t give you any legal rights regarding the child in the event of the parents’ death. To do that, you need to name a guardian in a will.
Short answer, no.
In the churches I’ve been to, the godparent is supposed to a) attest that the natural parents are people of good faith who will raise the child in that faith (the “Sponsor” portion of the baptismal rite) and b) be ready to step in if something should happen to the parents.
But legally, it means nothing. Parents should make their wishes known as to whom they would like to raise the children if they die, and put it in their wills or related document. If not, the court will appoint a guardian, usually among one of the relatives.
I believe that godparents are intended to serve as spiritual guides for the child–sort of supplementary parents. They may also often be the people designated to be guardians, but that has to be made explicit in a will or trust. If there is no person designated, the state makes the decision and, I imagine, blood relatives would be the first people considered. I don’t think godparents have any legal status at all.
On related note, say that I DO state in my will that Mr. and Mrs. XXX will be legal guardians to my childern. Is there any legal obligation for them to actually do it? Do I have to sign a contract with them in advance to bind them? Or do I just assume that if they said it’s ok, then they probably will do it. I can’t just name Bill Gates as legal guardian, and rest easy knowing they’ll be rich, can I :). Or do you just assume that if you trust them enough to be parents for your kids you can trust their word that they’ll actually go through with it?
Pick a Legal guardian who can do the job. As a matter of fact, when I figure out how to become one that is just what im going to do.
I can’t find the info on the net, how much it costs, for example. Legal guardianship is only until 18 years of age.