How to appoint a legal guardian in your will

If you have children under 18, you need to write a will and appoint legal guardians to protect their future. Here’s everything you need to know about guardians, their responsibilities and how to choose them.

Our online will writing service makes it easy to appoint guardians for your children in just a few minutes. But it’s important to understand exactly what this means before making your decision. In this article, we cover all the key questions you might have before appointing a guardian in your will.

What is a guardian?

A guardian is the person legally responsible for looking after your children if you die before they turn 18. If you don’t appoint a guardian, it's ultimately left up to the courts to decide what's best for your children, so choosing guardians in your will is a great way to have your say.

What are a guardian's responsibilities?

A legal guardian is responsible for all the roles you would usually play as a parent, including:

  • Bringing them up until they reach adulthood

  • Giving them somewhere safe to live

  • Maintaining their diet and health

  • Making sure they get an education

How many guardians should I choose for my children?

When writing a will, most people appoint one legal guardian for their children, but you may want to name two people if they’re a couple. You can also appoint guardians for each of your children separately, giving you full control over who they would live with if something happened to you.

Can I change the guardians appointed in my will?

If you use our online will writing service to make your will, you’ll be able to update your will anytime in the future. This is really important when it comes to guardians, as the people you would choose to look after them today may be completely different in 10 years time.

Should I appoint guardians for my step-children?

You can only appoint guardians for your step-children if you have parental responsibility for them. If you haven’t been granted parental responsibility, you shouldn’t include them in the guardians section of your will.

This also means that you won’t automatically take responsibility for your step-children if your partner dies unexpectedly. So if your partner wants you to continue bringing up their children, they should appoint you as a guardian in their own will.

Important: A guardian is only ever called upon if there are no surviving parents. So if you’re the child’s step-father and their birth father is still alive and continues to have legal parental responsibility, the child’s birth father would usually take full responsibility for them.

What happens to a child if both parents die?

If both parents die before appointing a guardian, the courts will be left to approve who takes care of them. This will usually be a close relative, but it may not necessarily be the person you would choose.

If both parents die after naming guardians in their will, the appointed guardians will be called upon. They would then take full responsibility for your children until they reach adulthood.

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