If some think was to happen to you yesterday
who would you want caring for your children today?

A guardian is someone you have named in your Will as the person you would like to be responsible for your children if they are orphaned before reaching the age of 18.

Why appoint Guardians?

If you fail to appoint guardians in your Will and your children are orphaned before they reach 18, the courts will appoint guardians instead, but they won't necessarily choose the people that you would have preferred to take care of your children.

If when you pass away the other parent of your children survives, the surviving parent will normally continue to have full responsibility for the children. However, if neither parent survives then the guardians you have appointed will take on the responsibility for your children.

When living overseas it is with the upmost importance to have legal guardians in place for your children. Social services could get involved and your children could be taken in to care, even if a family member or friend offers to care for them.

By appointing guardians, you can ensure that your children are looked after by the people that you have chosen.

How to Appoint Guardians

To appoint legal guardians for your children, you must name them as your chosen guardians in your Will. Before doing this you will need to ask the people you would like to appoint as guardians to find out whether they are willing and able to take on this responsibility. You may also want to appoint alternative guardians, who will take their place if your intended guardians pass away.

Roles and Responsibilities of Guardians

The roles and responsibilities of guardians include the following:

  • Day-to-day care of the children.
  • Making decisions about the children's upbringing, education, health and welfare.
  • Usually a Guardian will also be one of the Trustees for the property or monies held in trust for the child/children.

Choosing guardians

When considering who to appoint as legal guardian for your children, you will need to consider the following:

  • How do I feel about their values and parenting skills?
  • Are they able to offer a stable family environment?
  • What is their present relationship with my child/children? (do the children know them well)
  • Are they willing and able to handle the responsibility of caring for my child/children on a long-term basis? (Until the children are 18)

How many guardians should I appoint?

You may appoint just one guardian, however, most people when writing their Will choose to appoint two, typically a couple.

Should I make the guardians trustees as well?

Many people choose to do this, as the guardians will be taking care of your children's finances until they are 18. If you do this, you can also appoint another trustee who is not related to the guardians. In doing so it will help to provide objectivity and guard against conflicts of interest. It will also provide the guardians with some support in handling the financial and legal aspects of a trust.

Who can Appoint Guardians?

You may only appoint guardians for children in your Will if you currently have 'parental responsibility' for the children.

Changing your guardians

It sometimes becomes necessary to change your appointed guardians, for example:

  • One of your intended guardian's dies
  • Your intended guardians separate or divorce
  • Your intended guardians leave the country
  • They may have some major life changes
  • Your intended guardians are no longer able or willing to take on the responsibility

You can change your appointed guardians in one of three ways:

  • By writing a codicil
  • By appointing in your Will alternative guardians who would take on the responsibility for your children if your intended guardians die before you do.