November 7, 2017

What would happen to your children if you die?

Using your Will to safeguard your Minor Children after your death

Few people think about what would happen to their children if they, themselves, die young. It is morbid and can seem as if you are tempting fate.  Most of us feel indestructible between the ages of 20 and 45.

There is always something more urgent to spend your money on than having a Will prepared. Typically your salary arrives in your account and goes straight out again to pay for the mortgage and other unavoidable expenses.

However you can make sure that if the unthinkable happened, you would have some control over what happened to your children.  You can appoint a guardian, of your choice, in your will.

Here are some frequently asked questions about appointing a guardian for your children:-

 Why should I appoint a guardian in my will?

Appointing a guardian in your will gives you the opportunity to choose the people who would look after your children if you died whilst the children were still under the age of 18.  You can select people that you trust, who already have a relationship with your children and might be the best “fit” for the children. If your children are old enough, you can ask them whom they would choose to look after them until they are 18.

You can include wishes about how you would like your children to be brought up.  You may want them to continue with music lessons, to be brought up in a particular faith, or to continue their education at the same school if the guardian lives in the same area.

Importantly, it gives you a chance to ask a friend or a relative if they are prepared to act in this role or if they would prefer not to do so. 

How do you appoint a guardian in your will?

A guardian appointed by will is called a “testamentary guardian.”  A simple clause such as “If my wife JANE SMITH dies, then I appoint my sister DIANA SMITH to be the guardian of my children who are under the age of 18”, would suffice to appoint a guardian if both parents had died.

 What are the responsibilities of a guardian?

A guardian has all the responsibilities of a parent.  They must be over 18 and mentally capable.

 When does guardianship end?

Guardianship ends automatically when a child turns 18 or if the child or guardian dies while the child is aged under 18. A guardian may disclaim their appointment within a reasonable time of discovering that they have been appointed. They may also be removed by court order. 

What should I consider when appointing a guardian?

The following is a non-exhaustive list:-

  • What is this person’s relationship with my children?
  • Are they already close to them?
  • Do they have children of their own?
  • Are they likely to be emotionally supportive?
  • Does this person live nearby?
  • Could the children continue to go to their school and see other family members or friends?
  • Is this person financially stable?
  • Is this person physically capable of caring for my children? An elderly relative may not be appropriate for very young children.

It is possible to appoint guardians who live abroad but it may not be practical. The guardian would have no automatic right to live in the UK because of their appointment as guardian nor would the child automatically be able to leave the country to move to live with the guardian.

For further advice contact Catherine Paget at Paget Will Writing Ltd.