The vast majority of adults are aware that they ought to make a Will even if they do not actually make one. There are certain life changing events that might prompt any one of us to take that important step and put a Will in place. The birth of a child is a common triggering event. It is fair to say that the majority of such people in these circumstances have no difficulty in deciding who their money and assets should be left to. However, very often parents have not considered who should be appointed as guardians for their young offspring.
If the act of Will making itself does not force one to consider one’s own mortality, the consideration of guardians certainly will.
Q. So what exactly is a guardian?
The appointment of a guardian bestows parental responsibility on an individual. Parental responsibility is defined as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and the child’s property”.
In simplified terms the guardian is stepping into the shoes of the parent. Hence the guardian will usually provide a home for the child or children and essentially bring them up. However, technically parental responsibility means the right and duty to make decisions about the welfare of a child which might result in a decision for the child to live elsewhere such as with another appointed guardian.
Q. Who can appoint a guardian in a Will?
Broadly a parent who has parental responsibility for a child. However the appointment of the guardian cannot take effect whilst there is a parent alive who has parental responsibility. In that event, the appointment will only take effect on the surviving parent’s death.
Q. Do two parents with parental responsibility have to agree to an appointment?
Strictly speaking no. Each parent can appoint a guardian of his or her own choice in his or her Will, but the appointment will not take effect until (as stated above) the surviving parent’s death. Hence there may be two separate guardians appointed by virtue of the two Wills. On the death of the last surviving parent both guardians will have parental responsibility and they will need to agree between themselves major decisions such as where the child will live, schooling etc., as both guardians will have been endowed with the rights and responsibilities of a parent.
It is recommended that professional advice be sought from a suitably qualified Solicitor before making a Will. We do offer fixed fees for simple Wills – so please contact us on (01267) 237441 to find out more.