Appointing Guardians is Easy

Appointing Guardians is easy.

So why are many parents still opting to leave their children

to Social Services when they die!

If both parents die without having nominated a guardian for their children who are under the age of 18, the courts, based on recommendations from social services, will decide who gets guardianship. For many people, who gets the money is easy. Who gets the children can be a very difficult decision. Yet failing to make that choice can result in children being separated and taken into care.

There have been cases where parents have died without a Will and grandparents have taken custody, only for social services to deem then unsuitable. Forget the myth about godparents, they have no legal rights.

The key decision to make is who, if you die, should look after your children and carry out your wishes for their care. An easy way to make this nomination is in a Will. Many people say I do not need a Will as I have nothing to leave. This effectively ignores their most valuable asset, their children.

Guardians should ideally be of a similar age to the parents. If appointing older guardians, then make sure you review their suitability at regular intervals.

Appointing guardians who live abroad, can cause problems as permission will be required to take them abroad and that might not be granted. Just because a person is a guardian to children, the children will not automatically be allowed to live in the guardian’s country (e.g. USA). Nor will the guardian be automatically allowed to live in England unless they are from the European Union. So, if appointing guardians who live abroad, if possible make them a first reserve and have the first choice guardian someone who lives in the UK.

Unless the guardians are a couple, do not appoint joint guardians. Typically appointing both grandmothers is a recipe for disputes. On the face of it they get on, but would they if they had joint guardianship of the children? Whom do they live with? What type of discipline do they get? Which church do they go to? The list is endless. The last thing you want is to risk your children being the centre of a dispute when they are already upset.

If both parents have parental responsibility, the appointment of any guardian will not usually take effect unless and until both parents die. This can lead to confusion and difficulty if each parent appoints a different guardian, so agreeing the same guardian is very advisable for parents that have separated.

Whoever is chosen, it is important to discuss expectations and wishes with the potential guardian, to ensure that they are happy to accept the role. If not, there is a risk that the appointed guardian may simply choose to disclaim their appointment.

The best way to resolve any issues is to appoint a guardian or guardians in a Will.

With thanks to Bob Zwolinsky of Wickham Wills for content

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