Why do I need to choose a guardian for my children and how do I choose one?

Choosing a guardian for your children in case you should suffer an untimely death is an unpalatable but essential task if you want to mitigate the hardship your children would subsequently endure if no provision has been made for a guardian.

No one with young children wants to consider that they might die prematurely but, as we all know, it is best to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

If you die while your children are still under 18 without having appointed a guardian for them, the Court will make the appointment. Naturally, the guardian the Court chooses may not have been the person you would have preferred for the role.

There would also be a delay in appointing this person, or couple, so your children would have to deal with that uncertainty as well as the grief they will be dealing with. What we often see is a ‘race to the courts’ to appoint guardianship from different sides of the family and it can cause families to fall out.

The only way to avoid this scenario is to leave a will clearly stating who you wish to act as guardian for your children. The person, or couple, you choose will be able to immediately take guardianship and ensure your children are being comforted immediately in their time of grief. It also allows you to have control of your children’s future.

In choosing that person, who can be but does not have to be a family member, we would recommend that you talk to them about the role before you include it in your will and make sure they understand the role and the responsibilities that come with it.

Ideally, the guardian you choose would be someone who has a good relationship with your children and who can help them to cope with their grief in the event of your death. It would have to be someone with whom you already have a close relationship and trust with your children’s lives.

You should also consider that you would have to trust and feel this person, or couple, would be able to manage any finances that you will leave to your children until they are old enough to manage it for themselves.  You could decide to leave the management of the finances to another person to ease the burden on your chosen guardian.

The ideal situation is to ensure that your children’s wider environment changes as little as possible, so the best choice would be someone who lives in the same general area as you – allowing your children to stay at the same school and to maintain their friendships.

Furthermore, do also consider that if you ask a couple with young children to take on this role, you could expect that they will ask you to do the same in return. This reciprocal request is something we commonly see happen. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to consider before you make that choice.

If you die and you are the sole parent or guardian, or if a circumstance arises where both parents die, you will want to know that you had done your best to ensure your children would be looked after in a safe, secure, and loving environment.

The provisions you put in place now could make a huge difference to your loved ones in the event of your passing.  After all, this is the only way that you will get to have a say on what will happen to your children.

Of course, the unthinkable probably will not happen, but it is good to have the peace of mind of knowing that you have done everything you could to prepare for it.

We know this is a difficult thing to contemplate, but we can help you with it. If you want advice or help with choosing a guardian in your will, please click here or call to make an appointment with Marguerite on 044 9347655 or email info@buckleyandco.ie.

Please remember that this blog is written for information purposes in March 2024.  This area of law may be subject to change and specific legal advice should be sought in every case. 
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