The soft pitter-patter of bare feet often signals the time to arrange a legally binding Will. Many Australians have a good idea of how they wish to distribute their estate. However, many don’t realise a legally binding Will is also one of the best places to specify who should look after their dependent children, should both parents unexpectedly pass away.
By documenting your guardianship wishes, you can avoid the court deciding who should care for your children. Selecting the right guardian for your children is no easy task. There are many factors to consider when making this important decision.
One thing to consider is whether the proposed guardian will be physically able to care for your children. Whilst grandparents are often the first choice, consider how old your parents may be when your children enter high school. Will they have the physical strength and stamina required to look after teenagers?
Another thing to consider is the location of the potential guardian. Will your children be able to stay at the same school and maintain their existing friendships? This can provide familiarity, reassurance and structure for your child at a tumultuous and emotional time.
Or will your choice of guardian mean your children will need to move away from their school, family and friends? You might consider a fresh start to be a positive thing or you might view it as adding to the stress of losing their parents.
Lifestyle & Values
Lifestyle and values are also important. By selecting someone whose lifestyle and values align with your own, you are increasing the chance that your children will be raised in a way that resonates with your own values and beliefs.
What about Finances? Will the proposed guardian have the financial capacity to be the guardian of your children? It can be difficult to judge whether the appointed guardian is financially equipped to look after your children.
It is commonplace for the guardian to have access to the child’s share of their parent’s estate in order to provide for them. However, problems can arise if the carer needs to extend the house or purchase a larger house or vehicle to accommodate the larger family.
Whilst it's important for children to embrace and accept all races and religions, you should consider your own religious beliefs and cultural traditions. How important are they to you? Would you be happy to appoint a guardian who shares different religious beliefs and values? How would you feel if your children were raised in a different religion or without a religion?
Existing or planned family
Another thing to consider is whether your guardian of choice is planning to have children or if they already have a family of their own. If they already have children, how do you think they would feel about extending their family further?
You might also consider whether your children get along with their children, and whether your children would be treated equally to their existing children.
Discuss your choice
Once you have decided on the person you want to nominate as the guardian of your underage children, it’s recommended that you discuss your intentions with them. Gaining consent to take on the role will prevent any nasty shocks, in the event that the role must be fulfilled. Depending on their age, you might also want to discuss your wishes with your children.
As an added layer of protection, you can also nominate a backup guardian in your Will, in case your first choice is no longer able to take on the commitment.
Although we have covered the importance of writing a Will and documenting your choice of guardian, take solace in the fact that your decision is not set in stone. If you name someone now and change your mind in the future, you can always update your Will. As long as you are alive and competent, you can change your Will.
Writing an online Will with Willed makes it even easier to alter your Will should the need arise.