What is a guardian?
A guardian is essentially someone who has the legal authority to handle the interests of another person, including personal and property issues.
If you are a parent or have any sort of dependant, including children under the age of 18 or an individual with disabilities, it is crucial that you appoint a guardian to take care of their interests if you are ever unable to do so yourself (in the event of your death, for example).
Appointing a guardian provides you with the peace of mind in knowing that those who depend on you will be cared for when you are no longer around, and also eradicates the potential for disputes regarding how responsibilities are distributed if there was no guardianship order in place.
You are able to include a guardianship order within your will when you write it with us at Wills Services. Providing the newly appointed guardian with the legal authority to care for an individual, their wellbeing and their finances.
Who needs a legal guardian?
Anyone who falls under any of the following categories usually requires a legal guardian:
- Children under 18 years old
- Individuals with physical or learning disabilities
- Those who are unable to manage their own affairs and make important legal decisions
Regardless of their age, it is important that anyone who lacks the capacity to make their own decisions has a guardian.
If you care for someone who relies on you (for example, a child under the age of 18 or someone with a physical or learning disability), it is imperative that you put legal plans in place to specifically outline who should take over the responsibility if you are no longer around. You can do this by appointing a guardian within your will.
Remember, the appointed guardian will take over all responsibilities for the listed dependant(s) if you pass away before a child reaches adulthood or if they remain unable to make decisions due to a learning or physical disability.
Choosing a guardian
Appointing a guardian to care for your dependant(s) is not a decision that should be taken lightly, and one that should be made mutually between yourself and the potential guardian.
All guardians must be aged 18 or over and should care for the dependant’s best interests, in terms of both their wellbeing and their finances.
If they fit the above criteria, you can choose just about anyone to be a guardian for your dependants, but many people tend to choose close family members.
Guardianship is most commonly granted to:
- Aunties and uncles
- Healthcare professionals
- Close friends
The person must agree to the responsibility before guardianship is granted, so be sure to discuss your plans in-depth with the relevant people before making a decision.
As the guardian must take on a significant amount of responsibility, it is possible to appoint more than one guardian so that they can share the duties as is appropriate. For example, a grandparent might have the responsibility of taking care of the individual day-to-day, while a trusted close friend who has expertise in the field takes control of their finances.
Even if you would like to choose just one guardian, it’s also worth listing an alternative option as well, in order to avoid the issues that could arise if your chosen guardian was to become ill or move away.
Before even asking a person to be a guardian, remember to consider their:
- Current work and family commitments
- Relationship with the dependant
- Financial knowledge and the state of their own finances
- Lifestyle and whether they could deal with the extra responsibility
What responsibilities come with being a guardian?
Once the guardianship order has been legally granted, the responsibilities of a guardian include the management and handling of:
- Day-to-day affairs
The responsibilities can include complex financial dealings, including bank accounts, savings, tax obligations, and any type of inheritance that they receive, which is why it’s important that the appointed guardian is financially stable themselves and has experience in dealing with their own finances.
Appointing a guardian provides you with invaluable peace of mind, but it also ensures that your dependant transitions between guardians quickly and simply, minimising the risk of them ending up in care.
Setting up guardianship in a will
In order to officially set up a guardianship order, it must be formally declared within your will.
You should aim to create a will and appoint a guardian as soon as possible, so whenever a child is born, for example. Delaying the guardianship order only increases the risk of your child or dependant being left without a reliable guardian, putting their care and financial security in jeopardy.
If you choose to appoint the guardians as trustees as well, it is advised to also appoint another trustee who is not related to the guardians. This is recommended to help provide objectivity and protect against potential conflicts of interest. It also provides the guardians with support when handling the financial and legal aspects of a trust.
To begin the process of creating a will and appointing a guardian, simply use our online service to complete the required steps on any device and at a time that suits you.
Our team of advisors are friendly and have years of experience in dealing with wills, guardianship orders, and the like, so you’re in safe hands.