- Do you have “parental” responsibility for anyone under the age of 18?
- Have you been named as a Guardian in someone else’s Will?
If you answered Yes, to either/both of the above then you should ensure your Will reflects who you would like to look after your child(ren) if something was to happen to you before they reached the age of 18.
The biological mother automatically has parental responsibility, but this is not always the case for the father unless:
- They were married to the biological mother at the time of birth
- They have been named on the Birth Certificate (if child registered or re-registered after 1st December 2003)
- They have subsequently married the biological mother
- They have signed a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother, or
- They have a Parental Responsibility Order agreed by the Court
If the father does not have parental responsibility, then the biological mother can appoint him as a Guardian within her Will. The father would then need to appoint a Guardian within his Will in case the mother pre-deceased him. This is the same for anyone that is nominated as a Guardian as parental responsibility will pass to them if the testator dies before the child(ren) reaches the age of 18.
If both the mother & father have parental responsibility, then the child(ren) will automatically pass to the surviving spouse.
There are lots of things to consider when deciding who to appoint as Guardian(s) of your child(ren).
A few keys things to consider are:
- An obvious one, but appoint someone you trust
- It is important that you have spoken, and gained agreement from them, before you include them within your Will
- You can have more than one Guardian – this will ensure that if one person is not able to provide care at the time, then there is someone else who can; preventing the child(ren) ending up in the Social Services system.
- It is worth considering where the potential Guardian(s) live – will this mean uprooting your child(ren) at an already distressing time and moving them away from school, friends, places they feel safe, etc
- Do they have any children of their own? If so, would they be able to accommodate more or would they need to move to a larger property?
- How well do the child(ren) know them? Do they get on?
- Whilst Grandparents are often the first choice, it is worth considering the potential age they might be if the time ever came that they needed to act.
- How will the child(ren)’s care be funded? Could you set up a separate Trust or Life Insurance to ensure there are sufficient funds to continue to bring the child(ren) up as you would have wanted?
- Are there any special needs or specific values/beliefs/religious influences that you would want to ensure were supported?
- Finally, think about including a Letter of Wishes with the Will, highlighting how you would like the child(ren) to be raised. Whilst this isn’t legally binding, it will give the Guardian(s) an idea of how you would have raised them had you been around.
So, as you can see, there is a lot more to appointing a Guardian than just naming someone! Don’t let that put you off writing your Will though, we are here to help you. If you would like to know more please contact us here for a no obligation consultation…….