Protecting your children's future
- AuthorBeverley Stanton
What if the unthinkable happened and you were no longer around to look after your children? Who would make decisions for them if you died before they turn 18 years of age? It’s a subject no-one wants to discuss, but Beverley Stanton has some compelling reasons why you should consider appointing a guardian.
A guardian is a person who has the authority to make decisions on behalf of your children if you die before they turn 18 years of age. This includes decisions on who they live with, where they go to school, and health and welfare decisions. Usually, a family member, friend, or couple is appointed to act as guardian.
Who can appoint a guardian?
Only a person with Parental Responsibility (PR) can appoint a guardian for their children. A child’s mother automatically has PR. A child’s father will only have PR if he is married to the mother, named on the child’s birth certificate, has entered into a PR agreement, or given parental responsibility by the Court. If a parent with PR dies, then it’s assumed that the remaining parent will care for the child.
A guardian is usually only appointed on the basis that both parents with parental responsibility have died. If, however, one parent does not wish the other to care for the child in the event of their death, then our family team can discuss what can happen in this event. Our family team can also advise on the position with PR in same sex families.
How is a Guardian appointed?
The most common way to appoint a guardian is in a Will, but there is much to think about when considering who to appoint:
- Family structure and relationship status. It’s important that your children become part of a stable and comfortable family environment. For example, if the guardian you appoint already has children, you need to make sure they would be able to handle the responsibility of raising your children too.
- Location. It might be better for your children to live in a place that is not too far from where they have been raised. Also, you should take into account distance to school, relatives and friends.
- Lifestyle. You should consider appointing someone that shares a similar lifestyle to you, to ensure that your children are raised in a similar way of life to you as much as possible.
- Health and age of the guardian. You need your guardian to have the mental and physical ability to raise a child, and to ensure that they are happy to act until your children turn 18 years of age.
- Personality. Raising children can be very difficult at times and you need to appoint a guardian who is caring, patient, dedicated and trustworthy.
- Financial stability. A stable job and income might be an important factor in your decision. However, a guardian shouldn’t be expected to pay for the maintenance and education of your children; we recommend that your Will includes financial arrangements, including the appointment of trustees to manage financial arrangements for your children. The trustees can work with the guardian to make potentially difficult decisions, and decide how your children’s inheritance is used to pay for their upbringing. You can also decide whether any inheritance due to your children is held in trust until they reach 18 years of age or a later specified age, eg 21 or 25 years.
What happens if I do not appoint a guardian in my Will?
If you haven’t made any provision in your Will to appoint a guardian, then the Court can make this decision after your death. However, this might mean that the children wouldn’t be placed with the guardian you wanted. We strongly recommend that you make a Will setting out your intentions to avoid any doubt or dispute.
Our Trusts & Estates and Family experts are always on hand to help you with this or any other related subject - call us now on 0800 118 1500 to find out how we can help you.