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What is a Legal Guardian of a Child and What Should They Do?

Recent research commissioned by Solicitors for the Elderly showed that 76% of people in the North West of England have not put in place any legal plans concerning the care of their children in case the parents pass away. This figure is likely to be replicated throughout the country.

This shocking statistic shows that many people are neglecting to make a will which, among other issues, can provide for the care of children, including the choice of legal guardian. This alone illustrates the importance of making a will if you have children. Seeking help from a company such as O’Donnell Solicitors who are qualified to advise on making a will and appointing a legal guardian, can be hugely beneficial when performing this vital task.

Legal Guardianship Explained

A child under 18 will need a legal guardian to care for them and protect their future. In other words, to do everything a parent would do. A legal guardian is someone you feel is in the best position to bring up your child/children in the way you would wish if you were no longer around. If the parent does not appoint a legal guardian, then it is left to the courts to assess the best choice for the child.

Where there is a person who wishes to act as the child’s legal guardian and provision for the child’s future has not been set out in a will, they can apply for permission from the court. This is likely to be a long, drawn-out and stressful process. 

Responsibilities of a Legal Guardian

A legal guardian must perform all the tasks a parent would do for their child/children. These include:

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  • Making sure they attend a school or otherwise complete their education
  • Providing a safe environment for them to live
  • Providing a safe diet to ensure maintenance of their health and fitness, and taking account of any special diet or medication needed for the health of the child

The child/children must be cared for and brought up until the age of 18

Before Choosing a Legal Guardian

This is a highly emotional decision that must be handled with great care. Before you make your will and set in stone the person or persons you would like to care for your child after your death, choose carefully. A firm of solicitors such as O’Donnell Solicitors can sit down with you and discuss all the legal implications of not making proper provisions for the care of your child and how to set about choosing the right person to take on that vital role.

How to Choose a Legal Guardian

Most people will naturally choose family members, close relatives, or even very good friends as guardians. However, when making that choice, there are several vital questions you must ask yourself first. 

  • First and foremost – is the person you would like to take care of your child or children up to 18 willing and able to take on the responsibility?
  • Do they share your values, beliefs, and expectations for your child or children?
  • Would the children be able to carry on attending the same school, and would they be able to continue with their hobbies and interests?
  • Finally, does your choice of a guardian have children of their own and do they get on with yours?

Professional help in putting together a will and appointing a legal guardian is essential to help you make the right choices and ensure your peace of mind that your child or children will be cared for after you’re gone. 

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