Why appoint a guardian for your child?
A legal guardian is appointed to care for a child in case both parents die before the child reaches eighteen. You should appoint a guardian for your children or the courts will do it for you if the worst should happen.
The guardian will make important decisions about your children’s life in areas such as medical treatment and education and will directly affect how your children are schooled, how they are taught the difference between right and wrong, and how they are supervised during their lives up to adulthood.
How to decide?
Many parents cannot decide who to appoint. If you are having difficulty here are a few things to think about:
- Who is most able to take on the responsibility of caring for a child – emotionally, financially and physically?
- Whom do your children feel comfortable with already?
- Whose parenting style, values, and religious beliefs most closely match your own?
- Would the person have enough time and energy to devote to your children?
- Would your children have to move far away, and would that pose any problems?
- Does the person you’re considering have any other children? If so would your children fit in, or get lost in the shuffle?
Finally ask, can I live with that person taking care of my child? If your inner voice says “yes”, appoint that person as guardian. If not, keep thinking.
Do discuss the appointment with the person you choose and find out if they feel they can take on this responsibility.
What if my partner and I can’t agree?
It is best to name the same person as guardian to avoid conflicts. However, if you both select different guardians under your Wills then these separately appointed guardians must try to agree on all matters relating to your children’s upbringing and education. If they disagree on important issues, they will have to refer to the court.
How must the appointment be made?
You can appoint a guardian if you have parental responsibility for a child or if you are an existing guardian. The appointment must be in writing, signed and dated. It is good practice to appoint guardians in your Will because a Will is less likely to be forgotten or mislaid after death than a separate, less formal document. It will also enable you to make specific financial provision for your child at the same time.
How will the guardians manage for money?
A guardian has no obligation to support your child from his own resources. There are a few different ways to approach this issue when making a Will:
- Following the death of both parents, most Wills leave the residuary estate on trust for the children. The executors, as trustees, usually have powers to use money held on trust for the benefit of the children or to pay it to the guardian(s), to be used for the children’s benefit.
- Parents may include in their Wills a power for the trustees to loan money to the guardians.
- Parents may wish to leave a cash gift to a guardian(s) that is conditional upon the acceptance of the appointment as a simple thank you or the cash gift may be intended to enable the guardians to improve their home to accommodate the children.
- The parents can write a letter of wishes making clear how they would like the trustees of their Wills to use their powers to provide financial support for the children.
This article gives examples and is intended to give guidance only
For further information on guardianship or drafting a will, contact
T: 01892 506 213