Bringing up baby…?
Jennifer Cooper, Solicitor in Trusts & Estates team at law firm Hart Brown, stresses the importance of appointing Guardians for our children
There is no getting away from the fact that thinking and talking about death is a sobering and depressing subject but in many ways making a will is a positive step that all parents should take to protect their most important and valuable assets – their kids.
The law says that if you have children under the age of 18 and die without a will which appoints guardians, then the family courts will decide who should look after them if there is no surviving parent with parental responsibility. This applies even where your children have godparents or grandparents or a network of honorary Aunties to look out for them. I have a fair idea of who my friends would appoint as guardians but if they do not appoint guardians within a validly executed will, any informal or religious appointments and assumptions will not be binding. In fact, the family courts will not necessarily choose the people you would have chosen to look after your children.
The guardian of a minor child has an important and responsible role to play. He, she or they will step into the shoes of the parents as far as major decisions about the child are concerned. This may include decisions about where the child lives, how they are educated or their health. The identity of your proposed guardians should be carefully considered and reviewed over time. Things to consider include the guardian’s age, resources, location, their relationship or bond with your children. You should also check that they are willing and happy to be appointed. You may wish to leave a legacy to the guardians or draw up a letter of wishes to be opened by your guardians only in the event of taking up the appointment.
Taking the above steps to protect your loved ones by appointing guardians in your will is one of many reasons why making a will is so important and not a task for later on in life.