Give your child the best gift in your Will... the gift of certainty by appointing a guardian

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Give your child the best gift in your Will... the gift of certainty by appointing a guardian

View profile for Terrie Ross
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Give your child the best gift in your Will... the gift of certainty by appointing a guardian

Take a step back and put yourself into the shoes of your child.

What stage of life is your child at? What is their personality like? What do they like doing? What do they not like doing? What is their favourite colour? What foods do they like? What foods do they dislike? Who do they enjoy spending time with? What is their favourite time of the day? What is their favourite time of the year?

Like I can do for my child, I bet you can answer all these questions (and more) for your child with ease. These questions are simple to answer, but what about the next question:

How would your child cope following your death?

It is the love for our children that may make us think about, or possibly get anxious about, a time when we may not be around to look after them and to guide them through the many trials and tribulations of life. Life can be wonderful and cruel all at the same time.

Sadly, some parents die before they get to see their children reach some exciting and important milestones in their lives. Have you thought about how this would affect your child should this happen to your family? How would they feel?

If you ask a child that has lost a parent, how do they feel? You may hear words like sad, scared, anxious, lonely, lost, frustrated and angry. 

Losing you would have a devastating effect on your child.

Unfortunately, no amount of lifetime planning will take away those horrible feelings that your child would feel if they lost you. You can only hope, as a parent, that they would be resilient and find a way to enjoy life to the full in your absence. 

If you were to die before your child could look after themselves, you could make things a little easier for them by making some important and crucial decisions for them now.

If you have not already done so, you can prepare a Will. 

In your Will, you can decide who will look after your child in the event of your death. This person is known as a guardian. You will bestow on the guardian the same rights and responsibilities that you have as a parent. The guardian will effectively be stepping into your shoes to bring up your child should you sadly die before your child reaches the age of 18. 

By appointing a guardian in your Will, you can ensure that any disruption to the day-to-day life of your child is minimised, as much as is possible, following your death. You can appoint a family member or a friend to be your child’s guardian. You can even provide guidance to the guardian in the form of a Letter of Wishes. This letter can set out things such as how you would want your child brought up, your child’s routine, what your child’s personality is like, your child’s likes and dislikes, your hopes for your child for the future, etc. You can amend this Letter of Wishes as your child develops and their routine changes.

You should make a list of all the people who you would like to act as your child’s guardian and then weigh up the following:

  1. Would your child want to be looked after by the proposed guardian? Are they old enough and capable of communicating with you their thoughts on having the proposed guardian look after them? You do not need to burden them with the thought of your death so you could ask them in the context of them needing to be looked after while you go away for the day.
  2. Would the proposed guardian be able to or want to look after your child? Do they have any experience with children?
  3. The impact on your child’s life should they need to live with the proposed guardian. For example, would they be moving to a new area and therefore need to move schools?
  4. Does your proposed guardian currently have an active involvement in your child’s life? Are the proposed guardian and your child familiar with each other?
  5. The impact that it would have on the proposed guardian’s lifestyle and finances. 
  6. Are you appointing the proposed guardian for the right reasons and not because you are under pressure from family or friends to make a particular decision?

You know your child the best. You will know what matters to consider as applicable to your own family circumstances, the character of your child and that of the proposed guardian when making such an important decision for your family. 

You should speak to the proposed guardian to obtain their consent to look after your child in the event of your death. Otherwise, it may come as a shock to them. If the guardian finds out about this role after your death, you could make them face a very difficult decision as to whether to accept the role or not particularly at a time when they will be grieving too. By having a discussion with the proposed guardian now could save any issues later.    

You can also ensure in your Will that your child is looked after financially. You may wish to consider gifting money and/ or assets to the guardian to ensure that they are financially comfortable when looking after the day to day needs and wants of your child. You can ultimately decide what control, if any, the guardian will have over your assets for the benefit of your child. This can be covered in your Will.

If your child is under the age of 18 and does not have a surviving parent or an appointed guardian, it will be the Court who decides who will look after them. In addition to losing a much-loved parent, the uncertainty of the Court and its processes could have a devastating effect on your child’s life.   

Give your child the gift of certainty in your Will by appointing a guardian to look after them. You can also include provisions in your Will to ensure your child’s financial security.

 

If you would like to make a Will or to discuss generally the implications of not making a Will, please feel free to contact me by telephone on 0117 939 0350 or by email at trw@watkinssolicitors.co.uk.

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