A legal Guardian is a person who looks after a child or the children should anything happen to both of their parents. Guardians are responsible for the children until they are 18 years old. They also make all parental decisions and can also be responsible for managing a child’s property and inheritance.
Why do I need to think about legal Guardians?
Appointing legal Guardians enables you to choose and control who will look after your children in the event of your death. If you do not name a legal Guardian in your Will, you are allowing the Courts to decide who looks after your children and where they live, regardless of what you might have verbally agreed with a family member or a friend.
Who can be a legal Guardian?
The Guardian can be a member of your family but does not have to be. Guardians must be over 18 and be mentally capable. You should take into account parenting abilities as well as practical considerations when making your choice. It is also important to understand that naming a Guardian in your Will is not binding. If someone objects to your decision and takes the case to Court then the Court would decide what is best for your child. It is, therefore, a good idea to discuss your decision with everybody it may affect, both directly and indirectly.
How many people do I choose to be the Guardians?
Many clients prefer to appoint a couple as Guardians but you can choose up to 4 people.
However, you should be aware that is in the human nature to have differing opinions about how to raise children and if the Guardians are unable to agree this could lead to conflict and ultimately further stress for the children. For example, appointing both sets of grandparents so that you don’t appear to be favouring one side of the family could lead to unnecessary complications. If you are considering appointing 4 Guardians we would suggest discussing this with them and working out a compromise.
What if the Guardians die?
In your Will, you will have the opportunity to appoint substitute Guardians. If your primary Guardians die your substitute Guardians will carry on in the role.
What if I change my mind?
If the circumstances change and your original choice is no longer suitable a new Will may be the simplest way to resolve the situation.
How can I appoint legal Guardians?
You can appoint Guardians in your Will. Alternatively, they can be established in a separate document.
Appointing a Guardian is not an easy task and should be carefully thought out so don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!