Protecting your child’s future – Appointing a legal guardian.

As parents we often worry about what will happen to our children if we die when they’re young. But do we do anything about it?

If your children are still dependent on you, you need to make sure you have plans in place so they’re looked after if you’re not around to do it yourself. If you and your partner die without making guardianship arrangements, lots of your friends and family could come forward to look after your children. But unless you’ve left specific instructions, the courts could appoint someone you’d never have chosen to look after them.

And while their future’s being decided (which can take a long time), your children could be taken into care.

Making sure your children are cared for by the people you choose is simple. Just make it clear, formally in writing, who you want to look after them. Any parent with ‘parental responsibility’, or both parents with ‘parental responsibility’ together, can appoint a guardian.

Unmarried parents If the mother and father aren’t married, and the mother dies, the father wouldn’t automatically have responsibility for the children. It’s important that the mother formally grants parental rights to the father.

How do I appoint a legal guardian? The easiest way is in your will. Many wills include a section on guardianship for young children. It’s also a good idea to nominate a second person, just in case your first choice can’t accept the responsibility.

If you don’t have a will, or don’t want to write a will, you can write a guardianship letter instead.

Who should I choose to look after my children? There are lots of things you need to consider when choosing people to be parents to your children.

It’s important to think about things like their own family situation, how old and how fit they are, where they live, and whether they could afford to care for your children.

Don’t forget to take account of their values and beliefs so you can be sure they’d bring your children up the way you planned to raise them yourself. And remember to let whoever you choose know what you’re planning.

It might seem an obvious choice to you, but they could have no idea you have them in mind. And they may not be able to take on the responsibility in the way you hoped.

Royal London

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