Things to consider when choosing Guardians for Your Children in a Will

26 January 2016

Having children is often a catalyst for making a Will as you naturally want to protect them. Making a Will protects your children by giving you the opportunity to have input into your children's future after you die.

This may feel a bit morbid, particularly if you have just had a baby and you are enjoying being a brand new parent, but once you fully understand what a Will can do to protect your children, making a Will could move to the top of your to-do-list.

One of the most important reasons to make a Will if you have children is so that you can name a legal guardian to have responsibility for them. Having a say over who will look after your children if you die means that you feel more at ease about their future care and welfare. However, as this is such a critical decision to make, it is important that you give it some thought.

Many of us rely on our parents for support with the care of our children, and as a result, it seems like a sensible step to appoint the grandparents as guardians for our children. However what if there are two sets of grandparents?

Both you and your partner may have had very different upbringings. You should also think about the age of the grandparents, not just at the time of making your Will but also when the children are teenagers. Whilst they may be able to cope well with the care of your children in their fifties or sixties, this may not be the case when they reach their seventies. In fact, a Court may not feel it is in the best interest of your child to be placed with older grandparents, where there could be the possibility of them dying soon after the loss of their parents as this could have serious emotional impact on them – after all, the average life expectancy in the UK is 81 so think carefully before appointing your parents as legal guardians in your Will.

You may decide that one of your siblings would be best placed to be the guardian of your children, perhaps because they have children of their own, they are similar in age to you and you get on well with them. These are all excellent reasons to appoint your siblings as guardian in your Will, but it could also present some challenges for them. Some of these challenges are:

  • If your sibling has children of their own, who's house will they live in when they become guardian for your child?
  • Should they uproot their own children and move into your home to give your child some stability or should they move your child into their home?
  • What happens if they live in a different part of the UK and your child will need to relocate, leaving their school, their friends and all connections to their parents?

You can see that the issues can become very complex and there are no right or wrong answers to these questions but the challenges are very real.

In addition to these challenges, it is important to understand the impact of appointing a guardian who is not resident in the UK. Whilst guardianship may be authorised, there could be potential problems obtaining the correct visas; either for the guardian to live in the UK or for your children to go and live abroad.

Another factor to consider is how your children will be raised by their guardian. If you have fundamental differences of belief or opinion, for example, on education, religion or morality, this could result in some serious challenges to overcome. Any guardian you appoint should have similar views and beliefs as you so you can be comfortable knowing that your children will be raised in a way that fits with how you would have raised them.

One final thought about choosing a guardian for your children in your Will is to ensure that you communicate your wishes with whoever you want to appoint as guardian in advance. There needs to be a full and frank discussion to ensure that they are willing to take on the role. This will help you and the potential guardians to feel more at ease with the decision. You can also put your wishes in a separate letter that can be stored with your Will for your guardian to refer too if they need to act in the future.

The issues around what happens to your children if both you and your partner die are complicated and can be upsetting to consider, but taking the right advice and putting a plan in place can give you piece of mind that your children will be protected after you pass away.

If you would like to discuss how our expert Will writers can help you put your wishes about guardians for your children into your Will, call our Will writing team on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will help you.

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