Appointing a guardian in your Will enables someone you trust to take care of your children if the worst should happen to you. It also gives important rights to that person so that they can make key decisions regarding the future of your children. If both parents have parental responsibility, the guardianship will not take effect until the death of the surviving parent.
The guardian will make important decisions about your children’s life in areas such as medical treatment and education and will directly affect how they are schooled, how they are taught the difference between right and wrong, and how they are supervised during their lives up to adulthood.
If you do not appoint a guardian in your Will, the court may appoint someone for you. This may not be the person you would prefer to look after your children on your death. Some people assume that your closest blood relatives will automatically receive guardianship of your child, but this isn’t the case. It is a difficult decision to make, but it is certainly worthwhile doing so to give you peace of mind.
Who should I appoint as a guardian?
You can appoint more than one guardian and it should be someone you trust to care for your children.
Both parents should 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 to decide?
Many parents struggle to 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 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?
It is important you discuss the appointment with the person(s) you choose before you include them in your Will and find out if they feel they can take on this responsibility.
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 by the parent. It is good practice to appoint guardians in your Will so that everything is in one place and you are able to make specific financial provision at the same time. A Will is also less likely to be forgotten or mislaid after death than a separate, less formal document.
It is important to know that your decision can be changed! If ten years down the line the situation with your proposed guardian changes – they may emigrate or your relationship may simply change – you can revisit your Will and change your plans.
For further information on appointing a guardian in your Will, please contact Helen Kelly in our Wills, Trusts & Probate team on 0161 475 7685.