Guarding your children’s future
Posted on 20th July 2022 at 15:39
Usually, when one parent dies the other continues to care and provide for the children, but provisions must be made for instances where both parents pass away before the children reach 18.
If you don’t appoint a guardian, it is ultimately up to the courts to decide what is best for your children. Therefore, appointing a guardian who you trust to care for your children until they reach 18 is a good way to protect your children’s future and make it clear what your intentions are.
Why do I need to appoint a guardian in my Will?
Appointing a guardian is a good way to ensure that your wishes are met and that your children are left in the right hands.
It provides peace of mind and certainty to those left behind.
A guardian would have the legal authority to make decisions in relation to your children’s upbringing and would be responsible for caring for them until they reach 18.
Who do I choose as a guardian?
You are free to choose whoever you wish to be a guardian of your children. It may be a good idea to consider some of the following:
• Who will have your children’s best interests at heart?
• Who has the capability to raise your children properly?
• The financial position of the guardian(s)
• The age, lifestyle, beliefs and health of the guardian(s)
• The location, family circumstances and job of the guardian(s)
• Who has agreed to act should it be necessary?
Whilst it is common for individuals to appoint family members as guardians, you are free to appoint any person, or persons, over the age of 18. It is a personal decision which may require a lot of thought.
It is advisable to speak to your potential guardian(s) to ensure that they would be happy to accept the responsibility and are able to properly care for your children should the matter occur.
What about the financial burden on the guardian(s)?
You can ensure that your guardians are provided for financially by making provisions in your Will to assist them with the upbringing of your children.
A good way to do this is to leave a specific gift of a reasonable amount to your guardian(s) to ensure that they are comfortable enough to take on the financial responsibility of caring for your children. It may be useful to consider the age of your children as younger children would need caring for, for longer.
Alternatively, your trustees will be responsible for looking after any money left to your children in your Will until they reach the age in which you decide that they can access it. Your guardians would have the ability to request access to this money to cover any costs associated with the upbringing of your children, this may include educational fees, clothing, living costs and holidays.
Your trustees can provide any requested money to your guardians, as long as they are satisfied that the request is reasonable. This is a good way to ensure that your children’s inheritance is also protected whilst ensuring that your guardians are supported.
Ensuring your wishes are followed
As long as your chosen guardian is willing to step up and act in accordance with your wishes, then they will be responsible for caring for your children after you pass. If there were disputes around your chosen guardian, then any individuals would have to go through the Courts to challenge this.
You may also wish to prepare and sign a Letter of Wishes to leave with your Will to outline any specific wishes that you may have. This may include:
• Who may be consulted about your children’s upbringing
• What school you would like your children to attend
• Specific wishes regarding your children’s upbringing
• How any money from your estate should be used
• Any wishes regarding religion
Although a Letter of Wishes isn’t legally binding, it may be a useful document to assist those that you trust in ensuring that your wishes are complied with.
What happens if you don’t appoint a guardian in your Will?
If your children were staying with family or friends at the time of your death, this would likely continue temporarily until formalised by an interim Court Order.
In some circumstances the Courts may choose a guardian, which could range from family members to wider connections. They may also make an Order to place your children into foster care or place them up for adoption if this is in their best interests.
Stepparents may also be appointed as guardians if they acquire parental responsibility through marriage to one parent.
Therefore, it is important to ensure that your children’s futures are protected by formally expressing your wishes in your Will.
At Avery Walters we can assist you with the preparation of your Will to include guardianship clauses and any required letter of wishes.
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