Appointing Guardians

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    The provision for a guardian in a Will is something which should be considered by all parents with children under the age of 18. The l aw relating to Guardianship, contained in the Children Act 1989, is concerned with the welfare of a child whose parents have died. The law allows a parent with parental responsibility, or anyone who is a guardian of a child already, to appoint a guardian in the event of their death.

    This means that a father without parental responsibility (PR) cannot appoint a guardian, neither can a person with PR who is not a parent.

    The appointment must be made in writing, dated and signed and is most commonly done under a Will.

    When the guardianship comes into effect depends upon whether or not a residence order is in place when one of the parents dies. Where an order has been made in favour of the parent who has died the guardianship will come into effect on their death, even if they predecease the other parent who has PR. Where there is no residence order in place the guardianship will only come into effect when the last remaining parent with PR dies. Any appointment by the first parent to die will not come into effect until the second parent has died.

    The distinction between the above is based on the fact that a court, when making a residence order, may have decided that the other parent is unsuitable and enabling the parent with the order to appoint a guardian may in effect protect the child.

    Where more than one guardian is appointed, and any decisions relating to the child cannot be resolved between the parties, they can apply to the court for a residence order.

    The person appointed as a guardian is not subject to approval by the court or a local authority, in fact, there is very little control over the appointment. A marked contrast with the rigorous checks carried out for fostering or adoption. The court does have the power to revoke a guardianship and this power can be used where the guardian is unsuitable. It is still debateable whether this power to revoke offers enough protection and whether a more effective measure would be for potential guardians to undergo some kind of vetting process.

    Where both parents die without appointing a guardian (i.e. intestate or without provision in their Wills or other documents) the court can appoint a guardian for the child. The court will also appoint a guardian where the one appointed by the parents is unable or unwilling to act. This will usually follow an application to the court by the proposed guardian although the court may act of its own motion as well. In deciding who to appoint the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration.

    The appointment can be revoked by a subsequent appointment (unless it is clear that the second appointment is in addition to the first), revocation by a signed and dated document, revocation of the Will in which the appointment is made or, where a spouse is appointed, by divorce. The appointment may also be revoked by the court on application by anyone with PR or the child themselves A guardian may disclaim the appointment within a ‘reasonable time’ which must be in writing.

    Although a guardian can be appointed in any written document there are certain advantages in appointing in a testamentary document as these documents are more likely to be preserved, easily identifiable and will be under consideration by those dealing with the estate on the death of the parent.

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    Matt Walkden Will Writer

    About Matt Walkden

    I am a Professional Will Writer and I offer a small number of other products that complement my Will Writing such as Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPA’s), Fixed Price Estate Administration, often called Probate and some Property Products such as changing a family home from Joint owners to Tenants in Common.

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