Why you should include guardianship in a will
Whilst it is not possible to protect children entirely from the loss, it is possible to take steps to ensure that the devastation caused by the death of a parent is not made worse by legal complications and uncertainty, so putting guardianship in a will can help reduce the stress and uncertainty.
What happens to children on the death of a parent?
The answer to this depends on your circumstances and the plans that you have put in place. If there is no surviving parent with ‘parental responsibility’, and no appointment of a guardian has been made, then the child becomes the responsibility of the Court.
Until such time as the Court appoints a guardian, the child may be taken into care.
In contrast, if a guardian has been appointed, then responsibility for the child’s care passes on the second parent’s death to that guardian. The guardian is likely to be a person known to the child or perhaps someone such as a step-parent who has been living with the child.
Godparents have no legal standing.
Appointing a guardian
Perhaps the most important step you can take in making plans for your child is to put guardianship in a will. A guardian is a person who will effectively ‘step into the shoes’ of a deceased parent and assume responsibility for the child. Appointing a guardian, rather than leaving the decision to a Court, has several important advantages:
You can choose the person whom you would wish to care for your child, rather than leaving the decision to a judge.
You can discuss your wishes for your child’s upbringing with your chosen guardian and leave a detailed letter of your wishes with your will.
You can set up a trust for the child’s financial welfare with various stipulations for its execution within the will. You can discuss your choice with your family and pre-empt any dispute about who should care for your child after your death.
Choosing the right Guardians – practical matters
Each parent will have their own beliefs and priorities regarding the care of a child and it is theseconsiderations which are at the heart of choosing a guardian.
When deciding who should take care of your child in the event of your death, it may be helpful to Bear in mind the following points: