Figures compiled by the Childhood Bereavement Network from the latest available research data, claims that 1 in 20 children will have experienced the death of one or both of their parents by the age of 16. In 2015, 23,600 parents died in the UK, equating to one parent passing away every 22 minutes. Child Bereavement UK claims that 1 in 29 5-16-years-olds has been bereaved of a parent or sibling – that’s a child in every average class.
A natural part of parenthood is the instinct to protect your children, and for many, becoming a parent, whether biologically or by gaining parental responsibility, is a major life trigger for making a Will. However, a survey carried out by Will Aid revealed that 48% of parents with children under the age of 18 do not have a Will in place. What may spur clients on to make a Will to ensure that guardianship arrangements for their children are in place, is knowledge of what would happen if they died leaving no-one with parental responsibility. People often wrongly assume that the people closest to them would be the automatic guardians and would just “take over” if the worst happened. This, sadly, is not necessarily the case. If no formal guardianship arrangements have been made, it will be for the Court to decide who to appoint as the legal guardian for the child/children, and this may not be who the parent would have chosen for themselves. And in the worst-case scenario, the child/children could be placed in foster care while the Court process took place, adding additional stress at an already traumatic time.
So, if there is only one parent with parental responsibility (because the other parent has already died or has never had parental responsibility), the need to appoint a guardian in a Will is very clear. What may not be so clear is that the need to appoint a guardian is just as pressing in circumstances where to all intents and purposes, a child has two parents but one has not formally obtained parental responsibility – for example, where a couple is unmarried or where the person acting as the child’s father is a new partner (regardless of how long they have been on the scene) and no formal steps have been taken to obtain parental responsibility.
And whilst it may be very difficult for clients to think about such circumstances, there is still the sad possibility that parents could also pass away at the same time. This will almost certainly be the most traumatic event in their children’s lives and so it is essential that parents put in place arrangements that will guarantee certain, immediate and appropriate care for their children so that they get the best possible support.
Arken Professional’s Expression of Wishes to Guardians Document
While Arken.legal’s cloud-based Will drafting software – Arken Professional – easily enables these provisions to be set out within a Will, there are always the more private details that parents might like to express directly to those intended to look after their children, should the unimaginable happen.
Once a Will has gone through probate, it becomes a document of public record. Parents’ wishes for their children such as what school they would like them to go to, their preferred religious upbringing, which sports teams they would like them to play for, etc, becomes publicly searchable and it therefore might not be appropriate to include such details in the Will.
Arken Professional’s Expression of Wishes to Guardians document, which is available as part of every Arken Professional subscription, solves this issue. This document was created by Arken’s in-house legal and technology experts, who are also parents and understand the concerns and preferences of those looking to establish guardianship guidelines in relation to the care of their children. For example, the number of hours to ideally spend on homework, allergies to flag, preferred schools, teams, religion, screen time – even how many green vegetables they should include in their diet! – Important, personal information that guardians might not otherwise be aware of, and which legal parents might not wish to be shared publicly.
How It Works
The Expression of Wishes to Guardians document is a modern product that is unique to Arken Professional. It offers a series of non-compulsory menus covering various areas of a child’s upbringing – these in turn have a menu of sample customisable statements, which come into the document at the click of a button. There is significant room to customise statements, while still offering enough information to prompt and lead users through the process, including freetype areas for anything not already covered. It can be used in respect of one or all of a testator’s children, offering the opportunity to add statements of thanks to guardians and of love and affection to children.
Efficiency Benefits for Arken Users
The Expression of Wishes to Guardians document is available to all Arken Professional users as standard. Re-keying is reduced by bringing across details form the Will and Client Manager – helping the drafter swiftly secure their client’s more personal wishes in regards to the finer, more private details of guardianship.
A recorded webinar demonstration is available to Arken Professional users within their Arken account. New to Arken.legal? Book a remote demonstration at a time that suits you, to see our business efficiency tools in action.
This article was submitted to be published by Arken.legal as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills & Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills & Probate.