If you've got children under 18 or anyone else who depends on you, make sure you discuss with your family who'd look after them after you've gone. It's tough to talk about, butdon't put it off. Making plans and provisions now will help to ensure they're safe and cared for if the worst happens, especially if you're currently the only living parent.
When you discuss it, first make sure those you've asked are prepared to do it, as it's a big commitment. You can then name them in your will as legal guardians. However, if further down the line they become unable to look after them, or if they refused, a court would appoint a suitable guardian instead.
Our guide to guardianships covers the main points you need to know.
If you fail to appoint guardians in your Will and your children are orphaned before they reach 18, the courts will appoint guardians instead, but they won't necessarily choose the people that you would have preferred to take care of your children. Therefore, it's important for you to make your wishes known.
Normally, in a two parent family, if one parent passes away, the other will continue to have full responsibility for the children. However, if neither parent is alive, the guardians you have appointed will take over the responsibility of raising your children.
By appointing guardians you can ensure that your children are looked after by the people that you have chosen as the best people for the job.
To appoint legal guardians for your children, you must name them as your chosen guardians in your Will. Before doing this you will need to approach the people you would like to appoint as guardians to find out whether they are willing and able to take on this responsibility. You may also wish to appoint alternative guardians, who will take their place if your intended guardians pass away.
The roles and responsibilities of guardians include the following:
When considering who to appoint as legal guardian for your children, you will need to consider the following:
You may appoint just one guardian, however, most people when writing their Will choose to appoint two, typically a couple.
Many people choose to do this, as the guardians will be taking care of your children's finances until they are 18. If you do this, it is advisable also to appoint another trustee who is not related to the guardians, e.g. a solicitor or accountant. Doing so will help to provide objectivity and guard against conflicts of interest. It will also provide the guardians with some support in handling the financial and legal aspects of a trust.
You may only appoint guardians for children in your Will if you currently have 'parental responsibility' for the children. To find out whether you have parental responsibility under the law, follow one of the links below:
In some circumstances it may become necessary to change your appointed guardians, for example:
You can change your appointed guardians in one of two ways: