I’m going to be really honest here. There was a period where my husband and I did not have wills in place. The reason? We just could not decide who to appoint as guardians for our children so we did that classic avoidance technique of burying our heads in the sand and avoided talking about it! This is not advisable (of course!) but if you have children and are undecided about who you would want to take care of them in the event of your death, then I’m sure you can relate.
So, how do you go about choosing the right people to act as guardians? Well, let me point out a couple of important things to remember before we think about this further. Firstly, a guardianship appointment would only come into effect if both people with parental responsibility for the children have died. Secondly – and I appreciate this is not true in all cases – in most cases, we are appointing guardians in our will to cover a ‘worst case scenario’ situation, i.e. most of us will be lucky enough to watch our children grow into adults, so the guardianship clause in our will is there to give us peace of mind in the unlikely event that the worst should happen.
When it comes to choosing who to appoint, my advice would be to think practically. Take into account the age of the people you are considering : would they be physically up to looking after young children? Would they want to take on this responsibility? They might be relatively fit and healthy now, but what about in five or ten years time? Think also about where your proposed guardians live : if they live locally to you then this is likely to cause the least amount of upheaval for both them and for your children. Would you expect them to move into your family home? What about if they live abroad? Would you expect them to move to the UK or would it be your wish that your children move abroad to live with them? Do your proposed guardians have children of their own? If they do, would they cope with more children to care for on a permanent basis? If they don’t, would their lifestyle accommodate the sudden onset of a ready made family?! Consider the current relationship your children have with your proposed guardians? Can you imagine your children feeling comfortable and secure enough to be integrated into their family? If you have more than one child, would you want to ensure that whoever you appoint as guardians is able to take care of them all, rather than having to split them up?
There is so much to think about and to add to this (sorry!), it is highly advisable to appoint substitute guardians so that your children have someone to care for them in the event that your main guardians are unwilling or unable to take on the role.
Remember, if you die and have not appointed guardians for your children in your will, it would be down to a judge to decide who should take care of your children and, while this decision is being made, your children may be taken into care. The judge’s decision may not correspond with your wishes, so my advice would be to make the best decision you can based on all the considerations set out above, and get it written into your will so you have the peace of mind that your children’s wellbeing is protected should the worst happen.
If you would like to have a chat about any of the points raised in this article, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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