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Major decision about minors

Because a lot rides on making the right decision, appointing guardians is a common reason why wills are delayed or stall completely, says Fay Copeland

10 March 2014

Some clients have an informal agreement with relatives to look after each other’s children if the worst should happen. Appointing guardians doesn’t have to be made in a will – although this is better – but it does need to be in writing, signed and dated. Without a formal appointment, an application to the court must be made before any guardian can have parental responsibility.

‘Parental responsibility’ is a buzz phrase for family lawyers, and private clients solicitors must know about it in the context of wills. It is easy to assume when a parent makes a will that they have responsibility for their own children, but it is very important to double-check.

If both parents are married to one another, it is not usually a problem, but it could be if the couple are unmarried, separated or divorced. A father who is not married to the child’s mother may be surprised to...

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