Looking after Children (Guardianship)

Guardian (Noun)

-a person who is legally responsible for the care of someone who is unable to manage their own affairs, especially a child whose parents have died.

As a parent, if you are considering your estate, it is a crucial element of this process that you look at Guardians for your children (either natural or adopted) in the event of your death before they reach the age of 18. It is an important decision and one that can seem overwhelming, not to mention difficult to consider.

In this blog I will try and break down some of the key considerations you might want to bring to mind when thinking about this.

Taking on the role of Guardian can therefore be a huge responsibility so it would be wise to talk to your appointed Guardians before finalising the Will to ensure that they are happy with the arrangements.

The Society of Will Writers recently published a great blog which answered some of the other questions people ask, the following answers are taken directly from that blog and is the official advice that they give:

Can I appoint more than one guardian?

Yes, you can appoint more than one guardian but make sure the people you choose will be able to agree on what is best for your children. If you decide you want the guardians to act jointly (instead of jointly and severally), this effectively means all guardians would be required to agree on every single point relating to the children’s upbringing, which school they go to etc. This is likely to cause issues and potential conflict between the guardians.

In some cases, where only one guardian has been appointed, it would be advisable to appoint an alternative guardian in the event the appointed guardian(s) are unable to fulfil their role for any reason.

Can Guardians be appointed in different countries?

We have recently seen a high number of queries relating to appointing guardians in different countries to each other and that of the children. Looking at this objectively, realistically this is likely to cause a lot of unrest for the children. Where would the children be expected to reside? Will an agreement even be reached as to who the children will stay with? Aside from the above, there could also be difficulties faced (along with the associated expense) of obtaining visas for the children and removing them from the UK to live abroad. Will this even be permitted and what if the visas are refused?

Can I Leave Money for my Appointed Guardian(s) in my Will?

The simple answer is yes. One option is to include this as a money gift in the will which will enable you to specify that the gift is conditional on them acting as a guardian. However, there is no guarantee that the guardians will use it towards the children’s maintenance. The other alternative is that if assets are being left to the children, the trustees can use the trust income and capital towards the children’s maintenance and benefit. The trustees could do this either by using trust assets directly for the children’s benefit, by transferring income or capital to the child’s parent or guardian whilst they are a minor or to the child directly once they are no longer a minor.

What are the consequences of not appointing a Guardian?

So, what will happen to your children if you don’t appoint a guardian in your will? Quite simply, the Courts may appoint a guardian for your children. There may well be a feud between the family as to who looks after your children or worse still, your children may be placed into care. I’m sure many people will agree that their children are their most treasured possession. Losing parents can be extremely distressing for children so make provisions in your will now which will make the transition less painful for your children later in life but equally give you the assurance that your children will be well looked after and loved by someone you trust after should anything happen in the future.

If you want to discuss Guardianship for your children please contact me on the details below.