Choosing who should be your child’s guardian if you die – when your child is under 18 years old – could be one of the most difficult and important decisions you will ever make in your life. It’s hard to think of you or your partner not being around for your children if you pass away and there might be that niggling notion in the back of your head, that no one could ever love and care for them as much and as well as you do.
But making this choice and recording it in a Will, is crucial for both your peace of mind and securing your children’s futures, if you are no longer around. Otherwise, anyone could make a claim for guardianship, your loved ones could end up arguing over who is the best person to look after your children and a judge may end up making a decision, which may be completely wrong for your child.
By planning now, before it’s too late, means that you get to choose the most suitable person, as you know your children better than anyone else. Lucy Wood, Wills, trusts and probate partner, advises on the steps you can take to help make a decision.
Make a shortlist of potential guardians
It doesn’t just have to be immediate family. Maybe your parents are too elderly, or you might not have had a happy childhood and don’t wish for your child to be exposed to the same experience. Or perhaps you’ve lots of siblings and don’t know who to choose or maybe they all have large families already and couldn’t look after your child too. If so, it may be useful to consider friends and extended family as well.
Factors to consider
For each person, it’s worth looking at both the emotional and practical aspects of choosing a guardian for your child:
• Would they want the responsibility of looking after your child? Being a parent isn’t everyone’s choice.
• If they have children, do you agree with how they are being raised, potentially in line with their religious and ethical beliefs?
• Do they live far away? It’s important to consider the disruption that may be caused if your child has to move to a different location,change schools and make new friends when they have just lost their parents.
• Are they financially secure?
• Are they mentally well and physically healthy?
• What would your child’s life look like with them? Do you think they would fit in? Would there be similarities to their life with you now?
• Most importantly you need to consider if they love your children and vice versa? Will your child feel safe and happy in their home?
Make your choice and ask for consent
Once you’ve made your choice, ask for their consent. It’s important to discuss your decision with your chosen guardians, as it’s imperative that they’re comfortable with looking after your children. It’s helpful to describe to them how it may affect their family, what you wish their roles as guardians would entail and what your aspirations are for your children.
Record your wishes in your Will
Record your wishes in your Will and consider writing a letter of wishes which can set out a guide for education and whether there should be a monetary legacy to the guardians to assist them.
Once it’s done you can move on with your life. Also, with B P Collins’ free Will review every five years, you can change your chosen guardians if you wish as people’s circumstances and your relationship with your chosen guardians could change at any time. As a responsible parent you will want to protect your children as much as possible in life. By selecting the right guardian, you be able to do this after your death.