When parents make Wills, they want to ensure their children are provided for in the best way. If you have children under the age of 18, you may want to choose a legal guardian for them in your Will. This guardian should be someone that, in the unfortunate and unlikely event both you and their other parent die, you trust to step in and care for your children. Appointing guardians to do this gives parents peace of mind for the future.

What is a legal guardian?

A legal guardian is an individual with the legal authority (and corresponding duty) for a child when the child’s parents are no longer able to. Essentially, it is their responsibility to raise and care for the child until they become an adult. This means they can make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, for instance:

  • Where they will live
  • Where they’ll go to school
  • What they will eat, wear and do in their spare time
  • Their physical and emotional wellbeing
  • Any medical care
  • Their faith

How to choose a legal guardian

Appointing a guardian gives you the opportunity to think carefully about whom you would want to raise your child in your absence. While for some parents, there may be an obvious choice such as a sibling, for others the answer may not be so simple. We have set out below a number of important considerations.

  1. While grandparents may seem like an obvious choice to look after your children, they may find it too challenging as they head towards old age. It may be better to choose someone who’s similar to you in age, and healthy.
  2. Will they have enough money to raise your child? You can use your will to leave your child’s legal guardian some money in trust to help with the care of your child. However, it’s still important to choose someone who is already capable of financially supporting them. This will help if the money you’ve left runs out or needs to be used for something unexpected.
  3. Do you have similar parenting style and values to this person, especially when it comes to key parenting issues like education, hobbies, medical care, religion and discipline?
  4. Do they live near your child’s school or friends and family? Bereaved children often benefit from stability, so it may help if things can stay as they were before as much as possible.
  5. Does this person have previous experience with children?
  6. Would they be happy to fulfil this responsibility?
  7. Would your child fit well into their family? Will it be a stable and comfortable environment for them?

How to make someone a legal guardian

The most common method of appointing a guardian is through a Will – this has the added benefit that financial arrangements can be included within the same document. It does not have to be in a Will but this is good practice because the appointment will be intended to take effect on their death, which is the same for the rest of the Will.

What happens if you don’t make a will for guardianship of a child?

If both parents of a child die without appointing guardians, only the court can appoint a guardian. The child may have to go into care or live with other family or friends until the court appointment is made. The person appointed may not be the same person whom you had hoped would look after your child.

Next Steps

For initial advice about making a Will or appointing a Legal Guardian, contact our Wills, Trusts and Probate team on 0161 941 4000 or email lawyers@myerson.co.uk.