The importance of using a will to appoint guardians for young children

A guardian is a person appointed in your will to look after children under the age of 18 in the event of your death.

If a person has children, they should consider appointing guardians in their Will. This is so they can choose people for the role they trust and, ideally, who already have a relationship with the children. Approaching the subject in this way also allows the chosen guardians to be consulted in advance, as a guardian doesn’t have to accept their appointment.

The person appointing the guardian must be a parent of the child, who has parental responsibility. This means that they are:-

  • the parents of a child who are married to each other or marry after the child is born
  • unmarried parents but where the father is named on the birth certificate
  • unmarried parents but where the father has acquired parental responsibility by way of Court Order or parental responsibility agreement
  • the mother in any event

Accordingly, an unmarried father who is not on the birth certificate cannot appoint a guardian in his will.

Anyone can be a guardian, as long as they are 18 or over and mentally capable. Usually, it’s a family member or close friend.

Guardianship takes effect on the death of the person appointing them, assuming that there is no one else with parental responsibility still living. Typically, guardianship ends automatically when the child turns 18 or if the child or sole guardian dies before then.

When considering who should be a Guardian, it is simply a case of deciding who would be suitable to care for children after their parents’ death. Parents generally have a good idea who they might trust to fulfil this important role. I would certainly give consideration to that person’s existing relationship with the child, whether they are physically capable of the role, whether they are financially stable and if they have children of their own.

The guardian’s job can be made considerably easier through good communication. As such, many people write long letters to their guardians explaining how they would like their children brought up.

If you have young children, it is important to have a will covering guardianship. Therefore, if you need assistance in getting things in place, please feel free to contact me on 01273 284012 or