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Who gets responsibility of my child if I die?

25.04.2019

The thought of preparing for your own death, be it writing a Will or putting money aside for funeral arrangements, is difficult enough as it is, let alone thinking about what happens to your family once you’ve gone.

Whether you’re part of a close-knit family or you live away from your children for one reason or another, it’s important to consider who would care for your children if both parents pass away before they reach adulthood.

What is a guardian?

Traditionally, godparents fulfilled the role of taking guardianship of children if their parents were no longer able to, however, as with many other traditions, this is gradually being phased out in our modern day society.

A godparent’s role is a moral and religious one; being named as one does not create a legal relationship between them and the child. If both parents were to pass away, the godparent would not automatically become the child’s guardian.

A legal guardian is someone who has the legal authority to take care of your children should anything happen to you. They are responsible for making parental decisions in your absence, including things like inheritance and property.

You can also have more than one guardian for different elements of your child’s life, i.e. one for taking care of their day-to-day living, and another for managing their assets.

The legal guardian you chose should be someone you feel is best suited to raise your children, providing reassurance that you are leaving them in safe, responsible hands. Appointing a guardian also means that your children will go straight to them, rather than waiting for the courts to decide.

What happens if I don’t appoint a guardian?

If two parents have joint responsibility and one of them dies, the surviving parent automatically gets sole parental responsibility. If both parents die, the court decides who is to be the child’s guardian.

If the parent with sole responsibility for the child dies, the court decides whether to give responsibility to the other parent (if they are still alive) or to someone else.

If you pass away without having named the legal guardian/guardians (you can designate two individuals as joint guardians) in your Will, the courts may appoint someone on your behalf. This might not necessarily be who you want it to be, or even who you’d presume it would be; remember, this guardian is responsible for the rest of your children’s childhood and any important decisions that arise within that period such as school and healthcare.

No parent wants to even contemplate not seeing their children through to adulthood, however, planning for any future worst-case scenario is important, not only for your own peace of mind but for the sake of your family’s future.

How do I appoint a guardian?

Guardians can be appointed through your Will. Whether you have one that you made before you had children or still need to make one, you should ensure the latest version reflects your wishes for your family.

Before appointing a guardian, it’s vital to ensure that they are aware and are willing to take on such an important role.

To speak to our specialist Wills, trusts and probate solicitors in Bristol about appointing a guardian or writing a Will to include one, call us on 0117 905 9763 or complete our online enquiry form.

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