When you make a Will, you have the opportunity to appoint legal guardians for your children. It is highly recommended that you put such plans in place, or it could result in the wrong people caring for your children, should you die before their eighteenth birthday.
Planning for the future
Planning for the future is not always an easy thing to do, and appointing legal guardians for your children is certainly one of the more difficult discussions to have. However, it is important that you do. No one knows what life has in store. If the unthinkable should happen and you do pass away before your children reach adulthood, your Will can provide clear directions as to what you want to happen.
If you do not appoint legal guardians, there will be a degree of uncertainty as to who should be responsible for your children, if you die. Family members may argue over what they believe is best, and if the matter cannot be resolved, it will be up to the courts to decide instead. This means the decision will be put into the hands of someone else – perhaps someone you have never even met before.
Therefore while it is upsetting to think about, appointing legal guardians gives you more control over what happens to your children, if you are no longer around to look after them.
Choosing a legal guardian
So, how to you go about choosing a legal guardian?
There is no right or wrong way to go about it, but a good starting point is to sit down with your child’s other parent and discuss the likely candidates. Think about who would be willing to care for your children, and whether they would provide the kind of upbringing you would hope your children to have. Factors such as a person’s location, religion and age can all influence the decision.
After all, your children may be close to their grandparents, but can you really put this burden on an ageing couple? Your children may also love their auntie and uncle who live the other end of the country, but would your children really want to relocate, especially following a bereavement? And your sibling may seem like a suitable option, but if he/she already has four children, will they want (and be able) to take on more?
There are many different things to think about. Ultimately, however, you must decide what is in the best interests of your children. When you do make a decision, you should ask your preferred legal guardians if they would be willing to accept the appointment, should the need arise. This ensures the news does not come as a surprise, and limits the possibility that your legal guardians will reject the appointment.
Other things to know about legal guardians
Indeed, the legal guardians you select are under no obligation to accept the appointment after your death. That is why it is imperative to seek their permission while you are alive.
Of course, their circumstances might change after agreeing to the idea, meaning they are no longer able to care for your children. Because of this, it is possible to change your nominated legal guardians whenever you want. You simply need to amend your Will with a codicil, or write a new Will altogether. For example, when your children were young, you may have wanted your own parents to be their legal guardians. But now they are teenagers and your parents have aged, you would prefer to pass responsibility to your sibling or friend.
You should also be aware that legal guardians can only be appointed for children who are considered ‘minors’, which means they are under the age of 18.
Furthermore, legal guardians only become responsible for your children once everyone with parental responsibility has died. Since December 2003, both parents have automatic parental responsibility if they are named on the birth certificate. A father may also have acquired parental responsibility through a court order.
This means that if you are separated from your child’s other parent, he/she will become the primary caregiver for your child, should you die first. If you do not want this to happen – perhaps because you are estranged from your child’s mother or father – you need to make these wishes clear in your Will.
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Hopefully your legal guardians will never be needed. But if they are, you can take comfort in the fact that you have provided directions on what should happen to your children. You can also leave your legal guardians with financial support, as well as a letter of wishes explaining how you would like your children to be raised.
To put these provisions in place, you need to write a Will, or add a codicil to your existing Will. These are all things we can help with.
To find out more about appointing legal guardians for your children, please call Debbie on Southport 01704 532890 or Liverpool 0151 928 6544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.