Who should be a legal guardian for your children?Smart Will
Should you choose a legal guardian for your children?
Guardianship is a really important aspect of making a Will and something that you shouldn’t enter into lightly.
It is your way of ensuring that your children will be looked after by the people you nominate and who are happy to take on the responsibility.
So, what exactly is a guardian and how do they differ from Godparents?
How do Guardians and Godparents differ?
Godparents as part of the Christian faith have a specific responsibility to look after the spiritual welfare of their Godchildren.
This extends to an obligation to ensure their religious education and spiritual development throughout their life.
Whilst this is an important position in the life of any child this is purely a religious and spiritual role and significantly this has no force in law.
Legally, although the parents of a child may wish that they should be brought up by the godparents it is guardianship that would confer the legal right for this to happen.
What is legal guardianship?
A legal guardian is someone who has accepted the responsibility to care for a child or children in the future should anything happen to the parents.
There are points where a guardian can assume responsibility such as where the parents are disabled or mentally incapacitated, away on active service with the forces, are in prison or where they refuse to accept responsibility.
This is a legally recognised position and allows the guardian to assume all the same duties and rights as the natural parents.
This means that they will be responsible for looking after your child’s diet, school and education, hobbies and interests, religious education and numerous other aspects of your child’s life and development.
What to think about before appointing a guardian?
The very first thing to establish before appointing a guardian is whether the person is agreeable to accepting the role.
After all, they will be required to act as the child’s parent until they reach the age of 18 and this is a great responsibility to bear.
When you are looking to appoint a guardian there are a number of points to consider;
The age of the guardian. As we said earlier the guardian is likely to have to be responsible for a number of years but appointing someone who is much older than the parents may mean that the child could also lose their guardian in coming years.
Financial status. Are they able to look after the child or would another mouth to feed cause hardship for the whole family?
Probity and honesty. You may have made provision for your children through your pension or life insurance and the Guardian is responsible for looking after the financial affairs of the child until they reach the age of 18. Is your proposed guardian a suitable custodian for their money?
Lifestyle and values. You’ll want to choose someone that shares your outlook on life. This is the best way to make sure that your children are raised as you would want.
Family life. It is important that your child is raised in a loving and stable family setting, especially as they will be getting over the loss of their parents. Your guardian needs to be capable of treating your child as part of their own family.
Lifestyle. Is the guardian the sort of person you can see raising your children in what you would consider a healthy and secure way? Is this the lifestyle you’d want for your children.
How do you appoint a guardian?
Naturally, you need to speak with your potential guardians first and run them through what they would be required to do.
Once you have their agreement to serve as guardians then you can proceed with the legalities.
You will need to change your Will to reflect your decision and this must be reflected in the document and properly witnessed, whether you make the change by changing the main document or adding a codicil. (see our guide here).
You may choose to appoint more than one guardian, for instance on may be responsible for taking the child into the family and another could look after finances.
You might also want to think about setting up a trust which will take care of money for your child and ensure that their finances are properly looked after.
You can also add in some of your wishes regarding the care of your child and these could be anything such as religious practice or schooling.
Is it a good idea to appoint a guardian?
If you have made the effort to write a Will to look after your children’s finances then you really should spend some time thinking about who will look after the other, more practical aspects of their life.
Appointing a suitable guardian for your children is one of the most caring things you can do and we’d highly recommend including it as an aspect of your online Will using the Smart Will App.