Last Updated on 4.8.22 by Michael Smoult
Typically, parents want to be sure that in the possible (though unlikely) event of their both dying before their children reach 18, people they approve of will take care of their children. A lot of people don’t make provisions, because they don’t want to consider the awful possibility. Only one in four parents with young children has made proper plans for their care if they die and some parents have no definite arrangements in place. Appointing guardians in your Will however gives the parents peace of mind.
If you pass away and the other parent of your child survives, the surviving parent will normally continue to have full responsibility for the child. However if neither parent survives then the guardians you have appointed formally within your Will, will take on the responsibility for your children.
Guardians can only be appointed for children under 18 (minors), by anyone who has parental responsibility for the child. A guardian will have parental responsibility for the child which means that the guardian can make important decisions about the child’s life in areas such as day to day care of the surviving children and decisions about the children’s upbringing, education, health and welfare and medical treatment. A person who does not have parental responsibility but who has care of a child, has only a limited legal right to do what is reasonable in all the circumstances to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. If both parents of a child die and no guardians have been appointed, only the court can appoint a guardian. This is usually a willing family member or friends however the court won’t necessarily chose the people that you would have preferred to take care of your children.
Whilst it may be difficult to try and decide in advance who might fulfil the role, it is important for all people of parental age to appoint guardians who they can trust to ensure that they will take care of their children. A few questions you may wish to consider could be:
- How do I feel about their values and parenting skills;
- Are they able to offer a stable family environment;
- What is the quality of their present relationship with my children;
- Are they willing and able to handle the responsibility of caring for my children on a long-term basis?