Guardians are the people you appoint in your will to take care of your children (minor – ie under 18) in the unlikely event of both legal parents passing before your children reach adulthood. Your will passes on the ‘legal parental responsibility’ that we acquire when we have (naturally) or legally adopt children of our own.
A guardian appointment will only apply if BOTH legal parents die.
You should think very carefully about who you appoint as potential guardian, and you should absolutely make sure that you obtain their consent when you make a will appointing them.
Guardians will be responsible for ‘bringing up’ your children -ie their day to day care; taking them on holiday; decisions around education and so on. Money can/should be made available to them from any inheritance your children are set to receive to ensure that the guardians are not out of pocket. For this (and other reasons) it is a good idea to appoint different people to act as executors v guardians otherwise you create a conflict of interests (ie the guardians need for money v the executors/trustees responsibility to look after the money for your children).
Things to bear in mind when choosing your guardians might include:-
- are the chosen guardians willing to take on your children’s care if needed?
- are they in good health?
- what age are they and what age would they be by the time your children reach adulthood?
Appointing a guardian is something that many parents making a will stumble on (quite understandably). Remember, if you have any strong wishes about the care and upbringing of your children, you can deal with this in any ‘letter of wishes‘ that you leave with your will. This is separate to your will and is not legally binding. It provides a really useful place for you to give your guardians direction on any wishes you might have – eg on schooling. Separately, your letter of wishes might also cover things like funeral wishes, or the distribution of personal items. You will only needs to cover the stuff that is legally binding. By keeping wishes separate, if your wishes change, you simply update yourself your letter of wishes – and you do not have to go to the trouble or expense of updating your will.