Will the children be ok?

When you have children, you assume you will see them grow up, complete their education, get married and have children of their own. No parent wants to consider the possibility that they will die whilst their children are still minors. Following the death of a parent, whether sudden or expected, there can be a great deal of confusion over who will look after the children in the short and long term. This confusion can be avoided.

Many people assume that in the event of both parents dying the god parents or where there are no god parents, the ‘next of kin’, such as grandparents are legally obliged to look after the children. This is not the case. The god parents or the next of kin may be willing to look after the children but they have no legal right to do so. This may result in any willing person having to deal with social services or the court in order to ‘keep the children’. In the worst case scenario your children could be placed in care until proper arrangements can be made.

There could be several people who feel they should look after your children, and this could result in multiple applications, delay and distress. The successful person may not be the person you wanted to care for your children. It could lead to further disruption for your children for example it may result in them being moved away from their school or friends.

All parents should make a Will in which they make it clear who they would want to look after their children in the event of their death. This person is known as a Guardian. It is possible to appoint more than one Guardian. In the event of both parents (and anyone else with parental responsibility) dying, the named Guardian will acquire Parental Responsibility. This means they will have legal rights and responsibilities in relation to your children. For example they would be able to make decisions about important matters such as your children’s health and education.

The expense of raising children must be borne in mind. Your Guardians may for example need to buy a bigger car or buy additional furniture, as well as meeting day to day expenses of food, clothing etc. Most parents would not want to think of the person caring for their children having to struggle or ‘being out of pocket’. Making a Will means you can make clear financial provision for your Guardians to enable them to raise your children whilst also protecting your children’s inheritance.

If you die without a Valid Will, the intestacy rules will deal with the division of your assets and will provide that your estate is held on trust for your children until they are 18, but it will not appoint Guardians or make direct financial provision for anybody who agrees to care for your children. Making a Will now and appointing a Guardian can help to minimise delay, uncertainty and conflict at a very distressing time.

At Fraser Dawbarns we are experienced in drafting Wills and advising on the complex issues that arise when there are children.