Who will care for your young children if you die?

10 February 2022

One of the hardest things to think about for a parent when making a Will is, what will happen to my children? Especially for those with children who are still young and highly dependent.

According to Child Bereavement UK, ‘a parent of children under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK’, which is a heart wrenching statistic. However, as a parent, there is something you can do to prepare; appoint a guardian in your Will.

Parental responsibility

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. Whilst others can have parental responsibility, 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. However, an unmarried father will only have parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate.

Court-appointed Guardians

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 into care.

What does a guardian do?

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. A guardian will provide your child with a place to live, care for them and assist with any financial assets or requirements that they have. Therefore, it is important that you consider your choice of guardian carefully and ideally, if possible, agree this with a co-parent or other person with parental responsibility.

Appointing a guardian in your Will gives you the opportunity to have a say in your child’s future if you are no longer here. You can discuss your wishes for your children with the appointed guardian or leave a letter with your Will but, ultimately, you can be reassured that your children will continue to be well cared for. Appointing a guardian can also avoid a family fallout in what will be an already highly emotional and distressing situation. If your children are old enough, you can even discuss this with them to be sure they are happy with your decision.

Like all hard decisions in life, this is one that cannot be avoided; if you would like to discuss appointing a guardian or guardians in your Will then please contact us to speak to one of our solicitors.

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