According to the Childhood Bereavement Network the parent of a child aged under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK. That means that there are around 23,000 children in the UK aged under 18 who have lost one parent.
It seems that there are no figures available for the number of children aged under 18 who have lost both parents. But if a child is born when both parents are aged 30 then using life expectancy figures the chance that the child will lose both parents before that child is 18 is around 0.02%. That does not look much but it is surprisingly high at 1 in 5000. Which means if you live in a large village/small town then there is likely to be a child aged under 18 who has lost both parents.
We have been asked in the last week by two clients to bring this topic to the attention of readers of our articles because there are still so many families with children under 18 who have not written a Will which includes a guardianship clause.
A child usually has two parents who have parental responsibility for the child; although if only one parent is named on the birth certificate then the child has only one parent with parental responsibility. Parental responsibility means the parent(s) have the legal right to make all decisions regarding the child’s or children’s welfare until the child is 18. Parents who postpone writing a Will with a guardianship clause are putting their childr(en) at risk of court battles, family disputes and potentially even foster care.
A further concern is that if the single parent has married (or remarried) and dies before the child is 18 it is possible that all assets will go to the step parent and nothing will go to the child. If the child has lost a single parent or both parents it is not always the case that the court will allow the child to stay with the step parent.
If you are expecting a child we can write a Will that includes a guardianship before the child is born.
Many parents do not like talking about death in front of their children. However, advice from Child Bereavement UK is to include your child(ren) in a discussion about guardianship. It makes them feel safer if they know plans are made in the unlikely event that one or both of their parents die. We have first-hand experience of sitting with clients who discuss the issue of guardianship with their children and in almost every case the child is/children are pleased to have been included in the discussion.
Our current fees (until 31 December 2018) are £230+VAT for an uncomplicated Will with guardianship for a single person and £350+VAT for uncomplicated Wills with guardianship for a couple. If you have children and you do not have a Will/Wills with a guardianship clause please contact us. But also please spread the word to siblings, family members, friends and anyone about to go on maternity leave.
If a child under 18 is left with no parent with parental responsibility then the Court will decide who should be appointed as guardian. Surely you would prefer to make that choice?
If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.