What is the best way to choose guardians for your dependants?
Choosing the right guardians for your children should you pass away will be incredibly unique and bespoke to each of us. While there is not a simple answer, there are a number of questions we recommend you consider and discuss with your family before making your choices.
Consider every option
For the vast majority of us, our most treasured possession is our children, yet it is surprising how many parents there are in the UK with children under 18 who do not have a Will in place.
For many, death is something that will happen to them much later in life and is not a priority right now. However, none of us can predict the future and what might lay ahead, if we could, then we would all want to make sure our loved ones are protected should the worst happen.
Parents with Parental Responsibility, which can include unmarried partners, can appoint a Legal Guardian for their children, in the event that they die whilst the child is under 18. Most choose to appoint a Legal Guardian through their Will, although it can be done outside of a Will.
It is important to recognise that the guardianship appointment would only take effect if there was no one else alive who already has Parental Responsibility.
So, who, outside of the natural parents, would give you the greatest peace of mind to look after your children? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, the choices will be unique and personal in every case.
However, it can be quite an emotive subject with families and requires some careful thought and discussions between those with Parental Responsibility.
Grandparents are often a first choice
Many will think of the children’s grandparents as the obvious choice, but you should consider the grandparents own age and health, both now but realistically a few years into the future. Other considerations may well be the your own experience when being raised by your parents, as well as the relationship your children may have now with their grandparents.
Brothers and Sisters
Siblings are often another common choice to appoint as Legal Guardian, but how do you choose if there are multiple siblings on both sides of the family!
Talking to the people who you might consider is always a really good starting place. Your first choices may not want the responsibility of guardianship, being a parent is not for everyone.
They may already have children; do you approve of the way they raise them? It is likely they will raise your children in the same way, is that what you want?
Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, and Godparents
Again, many people have incredibly close relationships with extended family members, such as uncles, aunts, cousins, or maybe with their own godparents or those people they have chosen to be godparents for their own young children.
The same consideration should apply: are they of good health, do they want to be looking after children now, how do your children get on with them and their family’s?
How have any godparents actually performed in their role over they years and is that relationship you had when you asked them to be your child’s godparent as strong and as trusting? What about their family, will they all get on and do you like the way they have raised their children?
Location, location, location!
Think about the geographical location of the proposed Guardian, it may well mean your children have to relocate to another area, region or even country! Do you want them to have to deal with the upheaval that could see them have to move school and make new friends at a time when they have just lost their parents?
Ignoring the issue should never be an option
For many, these are really difficult decisions to make and yet it is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. Just because it is hard, it does not mean you should ignore doing it.
The worst outcome is that you do nothing and leave your families potentially arguing over what is in your child’s best interests. It could well end up in court with a Judge ultimately making the decision: a decision which may not have been what you would have wanted.