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Who will look after your children after you have gone?

For parents, one of the biggest reasons for making or amending a Will is putting in place provisions for how your children are to be looked after following your death. However, despite the many advantages, many people still do nothing to cater for their children in this way.

A parent who has parental responsibility for children under the age of 18 can appoint legal guardians. There are a number of different ways that this can be done, which include written statements and informal arrangements between family and friends. However, most people choose to appoint a guardian or guardians under their Will.  But what exactly is a guardian, and what do you need to consider when appointing guardians in your Will?

Although a guardian may be named in the Will, this does not necessarily mean that they have to take on the responsibility. For a guardian to be appointed, they must agree to this. This could be in the form of a written or verbal agreement, or simply by stepping in to take on the role of guardian in the event of sickness or death.

A guardian would have the same parental responsibility and legal authority as the parent would have had. For example, with decisions relating to that child’s upbringing, where they go to school and where they will live, but despite these they do not have an obligation to financially support them.

One of the benefits of appointing guardians in a Will is that financial considerations and arrangements can be made in the same document. Many use their Will to indicate how their guardians and trustees should use money from their estate – income and capital – to support and benefit their children. This could be in a number of different ways, such as accommodating their children, maintenance and school fees and education.

Additionally, a letter of directions can be written to store alongside the Will which can give a more in depth and detailed indication and guidance of the way in which one would want their children to be supported by their guardian, for example in relation to religion, fundamental beliefs, education and family contact, as well as how money is used to their child’s benefit. Although not legally binding, a letter of direction is flexible and can be changed and updated at any time with someone’s most recent wishes.

To discuss the appointment of guardians for children and writing a Will please contact our team.

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