Appointing a Guardian in your Will

03 March 2021

Whilst home-schooling may have confirmed in a lot of parents’ minds that their family is now complete, lockdown has seen the arrival of many new babies. This ‘baby boom’ is evident from the number of enquiries we have received from new or expecting parents wanting to make a Will.

Unfortunately with the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 continuing to rise, parents are wanting to ensure that their children will be looked after, should anything happen to them.

Provided you have ‘parental responsibility’ for a  child, you can appoint a guardian in your Will, who will care for your child until the age of 18. Your appointed guardian will provide your child with a place to live, care for them and assist with any financial assets or requirements that they have.

Do all parents have parental responsibility?

It is important that you are aware not all parents have ‘parental responsibility’ automatically. For example, an unmarried father will only have parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate.. Only those with parental responsibility can appoint guardians for their children. The basic position is that if a mother and father are married at the time a child is born, then both will automatically have parental responsibility.

Who decides who should look after my child if I die?

Broadly speaking, when both parents (or those with parental responsibility) of a child under the age of 18 pass away without appointing a guardian in their Will, the child becomes the responsibility of the Court. The Court will then ultimately appoint a guardian but until that point, the child may be taken in to care.

Where a guardian is appointed in a Will and everyone with parental responsibility for the child has died, the appointed guardian becomes responsible for the child immediately. Therefore, any uncertainty and further distress to bereaved children can be avoided.

Can I appoint more than one guardian?

You can appoint more than one guardian, along with substitute guardians for your children.  However, for practical reasons parents should consult with each other where possible and ideally choose the same person or people. However, do not delay making your Will if you are unable to agree.

If you wish to appoint more than one guardian, you should set out which guardian is responsible for which aspect of the child’s care and ideally confirm with whom the child should live to avoid any uncertainty or conflict.

How do I set out my wishes?

By choosing to appoint a guardian in your Will, you will have the opportunity to discuss your decision with them and other family members to reduce the possibility of a fall out in what will be an already highly emotional and distressing situation. This will also help to ensure they are comfortable with your decision. You may also choose to leave a letter to your guardians alongside your Will, setting out any wishes you may have as to the upbringing of your dependant.

Appointing a guardian in your Will can ensure that your child will be cared for by those you wish to care for them when you die and avoid any further distress.

If you are a new parent or a parent who has not yet made a Will, please contact us for a free, no obligation discussion about making a Will with a member of our legal team. We understand there is nothing more important than your children.

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