As parents, we all want the best for our children. That’s a given. And we all want to see our children grow up and forge their own lives. But occasionally tragedy strikes and a child might be left without parents. Appointing a guardian can provide peace of mind for you, but more importantly, make sure that your children are cared for by the people you trust the most.
When you write your will it's likely that you will be focusing on your assets. Who you leave them to, making provision for family and loved ones and making sure that everything is in place so that your family doesn’t have to worry about finances and property. And you expect to live a long and happy life.
A will isn’t just about your assets. It can be used to express your wishes in a number of areas, including safeguarding your children
Appointing a Guardian: key information
1. The courts will decide who cares for your children
The Office of the Public Guardian governs law in the area of guardianship. In the event that you die without laying out how and who you want your children to be cared for by the court will decide. And that can mean social services and foster care getting involved. Those structures are designed to care for vulnerable children, but what if your wishes are different? You can find out more about the Office of the Public Guardian here
2. Appointing a guardian in your will
So a will isn’t there simply to organise how your estate will be managed after you pass away. It can lay out your wishes in a number of areas, and appointing a guardian is one of those.
In your will, you can specify who, in the event of your death, you want to care for your children. You are able to leave assets and money in trust, or through mechanisms that you decide specifically for your children. That could be funding to pay for education, go towards living costs to support your chosen guardian, or other reasons.
3. Appointing a guardian for an adult child that needs special care?
In this case, where you may have a child with special needs, a mental or physical disability where they are unable to live independently, you can make provision in your will in the same way as you would for children.
4. How many guardians should I appoint?
It's a difficult decision to decide who would be responsible for your children. There is no requirement to appoint a particular number, but many people choose to appoint two guardians. Often a couple who can provide a stable home life at a time when your children really need it.
5. What does a guardian actually do?
Appointing a guardian is not something to take lightly. A guardian is responsible for the health, welfare, and education of your children. They will make day to day decisions about your children, and act essentially as a parent would. They would look after all of the day to day things that we take for granted and are important to children like birthdays and holidays. But they are responsible for the social and emotional welfare of your children.
6 What if I am separated from my child’s other parent?
Providing there is no legal reason, or that your child’s other parent has not absconded, the default position would be for your child to go to them. However, this may not be in the best interests of your child. This is a complicated area and depends on where your child spends most of their time, schooling, and so on. In this case, putting a plan in place by agreement in the event that either of you die is a good idea. This is an area where seeking professional advice from a solicitor may be in order.
Appointing a guardian is something that is often overlooked and can result in costs, court appearances and upset for your children at a time that they need it the least. Taking simple steps and including guardianship in your will means that your family and children know exactly what your wishes are, and are free to carry them out without the need for complex expensive court hearings, costs and upset when they are already grieving for a lost parent and family member.