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Appointing a Guardian for Your Children: What You Should Know

Appointing a Guardian for Your Children: What You Should Know

10th April 2021

If you have children, it’s important to appoint guardians in your Will. s

Our children are our top priority. We want to make sure they are cared for if something happens to us.. Who will act in their best interests? If your children are under 18, it’s imperative that you have a Will appointing a guardian to look after them.. 

You will need to consider who your children’s guardians will be and if they are able to care for your children. 

You also need to consider who would look after your children and make decisions on your behalf if you lose capacity, especially if you are the only parent with parental responsibility.

What Is A Legal Guardian?

A guardian is someone who has legal responsibility for your children. They have all the rights, duties, powers, and authority that a parent has. 

If both parents are alive and they have parental responsibility, if one loses capacity the other will continue to look after the children.  If both parents, for example, were to lose  capacity in the same accident, who would look after the children?  The Local Authority would assess the situation.  They may approach the family if they are in England and Wales to see whether they can look after the children.

It is better to appoint a guardian in your Lasting Powers of Attorney so that your children can be looked after if you are alive but incapacited.   

If, unfortunately, both parents were to pass away, it is also vital to have appointed guardians in both your Wills.  

What Does A Guardian Do?

Essentially, a guardian is responsible for caring for your child until the age of 18. The guardian is responsible for the children’s health, wellbeing and education. 

How Do You Choose A Legal Guardian?

Considering legal guardians is a significant decision as a parent. It requires balancing both emotional and rational choices. So how do you make the decision? 

Ideally, you should select guardians with similar values to yourself and your partner. 

Things to consider when choosing your children’s legal guardian:

  • What is the environment in their home? Is it stable? 
  • Are they currently involved in your children’s lives, or does the relationship need to be built? 
  • Do your children have special needs, and if so, does the potential guardian have experience or a fundamental understanding of what will be involved in the children’s care? 
  • Does the potential guardian want to care for your children long-term?
  • Where does the guardian live? Will the children need to be uprooted from their schools? 
  • Do the guardians have children of their own, or have they had experience raising children? Will your children and theirs get along?
  • Are they mentally capable of caring for your children?
  • Are they over 18?
  • If you are considering appointing your parents, are they in good enough health?

These are tough questions to ask but they are crucial in determining who would be the most appropriate guardian for your children. 

How Do You Appoint A Guardian In Your Lasting Power of Attorney and Your Will?

You will need a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney to appoint a guardian if you lose capacity during your lifetime.

You need a Will to appoint guardians for your children if you die. It is also a good idea to appoint alternatives in the event something unforeseen happens to your first choice.  It is crucial to review your Lasting Powers of Attorney and your Wills every three to five years to make sure your choices are still appropriate.. 

Sometimes, parents choose a couple to be guardians of the children, but legally they can choose up to four in England and Wales. 

What If You Don’t Appoint A Guardian?

If you lose capacity the Local Authority will step in to help your children.  Unfortunately, they may go into care while they assess the suitability of the family or friends that express an interest in looking after your children.

If you don’t appoint a guardian before you die, the courts will make decisions regarding the welfare of your children. 

If there is no surviving parent with parental responsibility, the interested relative will have to make an application to the  Court to be appointed as  a guardian.  Social services need to evaluate potential options and provide their findings to the Court. Considering guardian options can be a lengthy process.  In the meantime, the children might be put in care while waiting for a final decision from the Court.

Who Can Choose A Guardian?

In England and Wales, a person who has parental responsibility can appoint a guardian. The mother automatically has parental responsibility unless the Court has decided otherwise.

The father can obtain parental responsibility through the following ways:

  • Marrying the mother
  • Registered as the father on the birth certificate if the child was born after 12/1/2003
  • He and the mother file a parental responsibility agreement with the High Court in England and Wales
  • A Court Order gives him parental responsibility
  • He is appointed as the child’s guardian in the mother’s Will.
  • Adoption

We Can Help You Draft Lasting Powers of Attorney and a Will to Effectively Appoint Guardians For Your Children

To give you peace of mind, let us help protect your children while they are young.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors can help you create your will. Don’t wait — contact us today to get started.