Appointing a guardian

If you have any children under the age of 18, you may want to consider appointing a guardian in your will. A guardian takes parental responsibility for children, in the event of both parents' death. This role includes looking after and making decisions for your children. Appointing a guardian is not an easy task and should be carefully thought out. Here are a few tips to help you make the right choice.

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What's a guardian?

A legal guardian is someone who has the legal authority to take care of a child should anything happen to the parents. Guardians are responsible for taking all parental decisions and can also be responsible for managing a child's property and inheritance.

Why do I need to appoint a guardian in my will?

Designating guardians in your Last will and testament ensures that your children will be taken care of in the event that both parents pass away. It also enables you to choose and control who will look after your children. If you don't name guardians for your children in your will, the court will decide who will be given custody after your death.

How to appoint a guardian for my children?

Updating your will

Guardians are appointed through a will. As soon as a child is born, parents should create or update their will to appoint a guardian.

You may choose to have more than one guardian, but make sure the people you choose will agree on what is best for your child. For example, one guardian can be in charge of taking care of the child and living with them, while another guardian can be appointed to manage the child’s assets.

It is also advisable to name an alternate guardian in your will, in the event that the appointed guardian is not able to fulfil their role.

Before appointing the guardian, make sure the person in question is willing to take on such a crucial role.

Choosing the right guardian

The guardian can be a member of your family but does not have to be. You should take into account parenting abilities as well as practical considerations when making your choice.

The following criteria may help you decide who to appoint as a guardian:

  • family structure and relationship status: it's important that your children become part of a stable and comfortable family environment. For example, if the guardian already has children, make sure they would be able to handle the responsibility of raising another child
  • lifestyle: consider appointing someone that shares your lifestyle, so as to preserve your children's habits and way of life as much as possible
  • health and age of the guardian: make sure your guardian has the mental and physical ability to raise a child
  • personality: raising somebody else's child is a very difficult task - consider appointing someone who's caring, patient, dedicated and trustworthy
  • financial stability: a stable job and income may be an important factor in your decision. location: it may be better for your children to live in a place that's not too far from where they've been raised. Distance to school, relatives and friends should also be taken into account

What are the guardian's responsibilities?

Guardians act as parents, ie it is their responsibility to raise and care for a child until they become an adult. The role includes making decisions that are in the child's best interests and managing the child’s financial assets.

The guardian's duties should be written down in your will or in an informal letter, and should reflect your wishes regarding your child's upbringing. It should include choices related to:

  • health
  • school and education
  • food diet
  • hobbies
  • religious practice

Can a guardian be called upon when both parents are not deceased?

There are certain situations when both parents are not deceased when a guardian may be called upon.

For instance, if a surviving parent cannot perform their role because they:

  • are overseas
  • are in the army
  • are in prison
  • are disabled or mentally incapacitated
  • refuse responsibility

Alternatively a couple could be separated and just one of the parents die or there may be situations where someone re-marries.

The guardian can act with the surviving parent and any disputes will have to be settled by the court. The surviving parent is still considered the statutory guardian.

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