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Appointing Guardians in your Will

Jan 12, 2018

There are many reasons why it is important to have a Will; one reason being so your estate passes to the people or organisations you wish it to, but also for planning the future for your children.  If they are under the age of 18 in the event that both you and their other parent pass away, you need to ensure there are arrangements in place for their welfare.  Caroline Johnstone, Private Client Solicitor, explains here how to decide who to appoint to this important role and what you need to consider.

What is a guardian?

In the event that both parents of a child should die, the guardians appointed would have parental responsibility of any children.  They would therefore make the important decisions about their life, including not only day-to-day and living arrangements but also regarding any medical treatment and health issues, as well as their education. 

Who should I choose as a guardian?

For most people, the natural conclusion would be to appoint family members as guardians; however there are many factors you should consider when choosing the guardians for your children:

  • the age of the potential guardians, not only at the time of making your Will but also in the future should they be called upon. 
  • their financial stability - if you are concerned that the person or people you wish to appoint as guardians may not be able to financially support your children, there are clauses you can include in your Will to safeguard them, in the form of trusts, legacies or through lending funds.  
  • their location – they may not be local to you, which would mean your children would need to leave their school and friends at a time when they need stability and support
  • do they agree with your own ethics, beliefs and values when it comes to raising children
  • do they get on with your children
  • do they have children of their own – while this could provide some sense of inclusion for your own children should they need to be housed with their guardians, this could also present a complication as the guardians may need to move to a larger property.

“We all know how things change over time, so you can include stipulations within your Will for the guardian to meet certain requirements at the time when they are called upon,” explains Caroline.  “Your intended couple may have divorced for example since you made your Will, or they may have moved abroad or even died themselves.  For these reasons it is sensible to leave instructions for several guardians, most commonly couples, in case the initial person or people are reluctant or unable to take on the responsibility.”

What happens if I don’t appoint guardians?

Without instructions left in a Will, only the Court can appoint the guardian, even if there has been an informal agreement between the parents and friends or relatives. 

Caroline concludes, “Only by choosing guardians yourself and specifying them in your Will can you ensure your children will be looked after by those you believe will be the best people, and will be spared the uncertainty of not knowing their future when they have already lost their parents.  Before you make any appointment official in your Will, we would always recommend you discuss your plans with the intended guardians to ensure they are willing to take on the responsibility in the unfortunate situation.” 

To find out more about appointing guardians in your Will, you can contact Caroline or the Private Client team on 01329 222075 or email


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.