All too often we hear people say they don’t need to make a Will, because they “have nothing to leave”. But what about your children – aren’t they your most precious possession? If you should die and there is no surviving parent or anyone else with parental responsibility to look after your child, then the court will make the decision for you, and it may not be the person you would choose. This is why it is so important that you nominate a guardian for your child in your will.

What is a guardian?

A guardian is someone you appoint to look after your child until they reach eighteen. They will basically be acting as a parent for your child until he or she reaches the age of 18. They will be responsible for your child’s health, safety, welfare and education and will have a legal duty of care towards them.

How do I appoint a guardian?

The most common way to appoint a guardian is through your will, although it can be written on a separate note as long as it contains clear instructions and is signed and dated. That said, it is best to use your will, so that you can make other provisions for your children at the same time. For example, you may instruct that your estate passes to your children unless they are minors, in which case you can stipulate that the money is held in trust to pay for their everyday living expenses, education and well-being.

Who should I appoint?

It is completely up to you who you appoint as guardian, but it will usually be a family member or close friend. Ideally it should be someone who already has a close relationship with your children. Other considerations are:

  • Location: ideally you don’t want to have to uproot your children from their friends and school, so if you have family in the area, it may make more sense to appoint them over someone who lives on the other side of the country.
  • Age/health: an older relative may not be able to care for your children in the long term
  • Suitability: Are their values similar to your own? Can they offer stability? If they already have a family, would they be able to manage the additional responsibility?

Should I ask them first?

It is a good idea to discuss the appointment with the guardian first. There could be a valid reason that you haven’t thought of why it would be impossible or impractical for them to be a guardian at a later date. For peace of mind it is best to obtain their consent first.