I’m reading a book at the moment called The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman. I’m about half way through so I’m not sure what happens in the end, but it got me thinking about guardianship, which forms part of my advice when making Wills for parents whether as a couple or a single parent.

The Accidental Mother is about Sophie Mills who is almost at the pinnacle of her career when she finds out that her best friend from school, Carrie has passed away appointing Sophie as guardian of her two children, Bella and Izzy. What follows is, of course, Sophie having to get to grips with being thrown into motherhood and the children coping with the change in their life. The children’s Dad had left Carrie and the children and moved to Peru.

In the book, Sophie is shocked to hear that she is appointed as guardian as she had lost contact with Carrie over the years. She then remembers many years before agreeing over a bottle of wine to be the guardian of the children never really believing it would happen. She agrees to act as guardian but does so on the basis that it is temporary until the Dad is found in Peru and returns. Quite bluntly, Sophie was hesitant about having the children, seeing them as a burden who would affect her daily routine and her career ambitions.

What I’m really enjoying about The Accidental Mother is that it is making me think about death and my children as a Mum, rather than as a Solicitor. I write Wills regularly for parents that include appointment of guardians. I also deal with probates where someone dies and the guardians take on the children. I never actually see the thoughts and feelings of the guardians though and the difficulties and fragility of the children after having lost a parent. Whilst I know this book is fiction, to be able to see things from the view of the guardian and the children has been very useful.

I’m a parent myself to two raucous little boys. Doing the job I do, I know how important it is to appoint guardians and have taken great pains to consider who would be best to look after my boys and then check that those appointed are happy to do so. I hope it never happens but talking about death and dealing in the area of death, I’m well aware that it could. Will those I’ve appointed still be happy to take my boys (especially the littlest who seems to always be trying to wreck the house in some way – talking of which does anybody know how to get oil out of a carpet?!) and look after them like they are their own? I really hope so.

What I think is to be learnt from The Accidental Mother is that the appointment of guardians is so very important. If there is any reason to make a Will, the appointment of a guardian is the most important reason. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make a Will to ensure that your property and money goes to the people you want it to, of course you should. But if you are at that stage in your life, where you have children and very little in savings (children are expensive!) and you think “what’s the point with a Will, what have I actually got to give away”, then look at your children and make the decision to make a Will and appoint guardian(s). After all, they are more precious than your assets.

When considering who to appoint as guardian(s) speak with anyone else who has parental responsibility for your children (if you are unsure who has parental responsibility and what this means, contact a member of our Family Team who will be happy to help). Spend time thinking about who you would trust to look after your children. Would they bring your children up in a similar manner to you with the same values? If not, would you be happy with their parenting style and values? Finally, and in some ways most importantly, speak to who you would like to appoint as guardian. Would they be happy to look after your children when taking into account their own circumstances?

Once you have made your decision and the guardian to be has agreed, keep the appointment under review. Every year, consider if you are still happy with the person you have appointed as being the guardian. Are they still happy to be guardian? Have their circumstances changed which would mean you don’t feel that they are suitable any longer? Or perhaps the change in circumstances would mean that the guardian to be doesn’t feel they would be able to act any longer?

If you would like further information or we can help in any way, contact Samantha Downs on Samantha.downs@dodds-solicitors.co.uk or 0116 2628596

If you’re interested in reading the book, click here for Rowan Coleman’s website

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