Why Are Guardians Important?
If you have children under 18, then you should look at ensuring your will contains information about who will look after them should you die, particularly if you are unmarried, divorced, or separated. These people are known as guardians, and without having them mentioned specifically within your will, there could be a long legal battle over who will care for your children. In the end, it will be the courts that choose a guardian for your children, and it could be someone who you would not want to take care of them. This is just one of the reasons why it is so important to write the details in your will.
Bear in mind, however, that if there are two parents currently caring for the child, the guardian duties will usually only come into effect on the death of the second parent.
It is usual to appoint family members as guardians because in most cases they already know the children involved. This makes it easier for both parties to move in together and begin a life together. As the children get older, it is sometimes more appropriate for friends of the family to take care of them, especially if they already have children of a similar age. They may also share more similarities with your lifestyle than relatives do. And of course, with families being spread out across the country and beyond, friends tend to live closer, which means your children can stay in the area – and the school – that they know.
It is best to limit the number of guardians to two, and it makes things much easier if they are living in one home. Otherwise, with two guardians living in two different places – guardians who may not even know one another – will mean that the child in question will have to travel between them, causing major disruption for everyone. If you want to ensure that all eventualities are covered, it is possible to appoint substitute guardians should the initial choice prove difficult to manage.
A guardian’s duties are very responsible, and it is not something that everyone will want to do. They will bring up the child, becoming another parent to all intents and purposes. They would organise holidays, birthdays, food, welfare, education, and everything else that a parent would normally do. If there are certain things that you would or would not like to happen regarding your child’s upbringing, then the best idea is to write this down in a separate document, and keep it with your will. Try not to be too rigid in your wishes, though; making things difficult for the guardian could mean that they refuse the job or, if they do take it on, your wishes may not be followed.
Remember, it is often usual for some kind of trust or financial payment to be made via the estate for the upbringing of the child or children. Ideally, the trustees should be different to the guardians, and in this way discussions can be made to ensure that the money is being used for the right things.