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Always be prepared... - Appointing a guardian in your Will

Adele McCabe from our Wills and Probate team, talks to us about the importance of having a Will and appointing a guardian in it when you have children under the age of 18.

I was recently flicking through the channels one night and stumbled across the movie, Life as we know it. A romantic comedy about two people, who can barely tolerate each other, but are pushed together through circumstance when their best friends pass away and leave their baby girl Sophie, in their care. This got me thinking about death… actually it got me thinking about ‘talking and preparing for death’. In the movie the couple died in a car accident and so overnight, their two friends suddenly have a 1 year old to look after. They were Sophie’s godparents yes, but had no idea that their friends had legally nominated them as guardians to their child in their Will.

Godparents have no legal status in the UK so unless the godparent has also been appointed as a Guardian, then the child will not automatically be cared for by them should anything happen to the parent. If you want to state officially who will be your child’s guardian should anything happen to you, one way to do this is to include your wishes in a legally binding Will. A simple Will professionally written will cover everything from final wishes and organ donation preferences, to basic inheritance and tax planning. Plus if you have children under 18, you can decide who you would like to appoint as guardian to look after them if both you and their other parent were to die.

When writing your Will, we will always advise you to discuss your wishes and your intention to appoint them with the proposed guardian/s. This isn’t necessarily an easy conversation to have however, as a parent or carer, you need to ensure that your prospective guardian/s have the capability to take on the role for your child.

No one wants to think about dying, especially when you are young and in good health, but the Scouts motto is perfect here – Always be prepared. As a parent or carer in particular, it’s so important to prepare for every eventuality, no matter how unlikely. We do this as parents on a daily basis, for example, when we schedule in childcare - Child A will be picked up by Dad, but if his train is delayed, then Mum can pick him up unless her meeting runs over. If this happens, then Mum’s best friend will step in as she only lives down the road from the nursery. So why do we put off writing a Will? Surely this is the most important bit of childcare scheduling that we will ever do?

We put it off because it’s scary, and upsetting to think about who will look after your child or children if you were to die. In reality, the likelihood of this happening is minimal, so why should we bother going through the awkward conversations and expense of having our Will done? I would say that you should go through all of it now in order to make things simpler later on should the worst happen. If you don’t have a Will and both parents die, then anyone with whom the child is close i.e. godparent, family member or close friend will have to apply to the Court for an order that any minor children live with them. This will give them parental responsibility of the child if that order is granted.

So in short, get your Will written!  Be that overly prepared parent, you never know when you might need it. We hope you won’t need it for a very long time, but it’s better to be prepared and just have it tucked away at home in the unlikely event that it’s needed, or better yet, we will store it securely for you, free of charge.

Do you need help making a Will? At Amphlett Lissimore, our experienced teams based at Crystal Palace and West Wickham, have in-depth knowledge in all areas of Private client law and can help you write a Will that suits you and your family. Our friendly team will put you at ease, explaining everything clearly with no legal jargon.

Call us today on 020 8771 5254 for your free initial assessment.

About the Author

Adele McCabe is a Chartered Legal Executive based in our West Wickham office, where she heads up the Wills and Probate team. She specialises in Wills and Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Deputyship applications.

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