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How to appoint a guardian

When writing your Will, one of the questions which arises if you have children under 18 is who will care for them after your death?  Generally, it is agreed that the children will remain with the living parent.  However you must consider what would happen in the awful event of both biological parents dying.  Clearly, this is an unpleasant issue to contemplate as we all hope to see our children safely into adulthood and beyond.  However, making appropriate provision in your Will needs to be considered and is the responsible thing to do as a caring parent.

Brothers and sisters of either biological parent are likely candidates as guardians, as they are generally of a similar age, and have children in the same generation.  Grandparents can be chosen, but consideration of their age and health should be taken, as the impact on the children of losing their parents, and then their grandparents, could be very traumatic.  Good friends are consulted and chosen in many cases, but it really is for you to decide who can best act ‘in loco parentis’ and remember whoever you choose, obtaining their consent and agreement before you name them in your Will is vital.

As multiple marriages and step families are now much more commonplace, they also bring with them their own questions, should the biological parent die.  The answer may be that in these circumstances, the children could be returned to the full custody of their other biological parent.  Even if they have been largely brought up by the step parent, the law will generally favour custody by the biological parent if that parent wishes, which could of course be upsetting for all concerned.  However, to avoid this happening, you can specify what you believe to be in the child’s best interest, be it that you want them brought up with any other children from the marriage, or, if the other biological parent has been absent for some time, you could state that you would consider it traumatic for the child to live with a virtual stranger and if needs be, a court will decide the best course of action at that time.

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