Permanent Guardians for Children

This article was contributed by Professional Wills Limited. For more information, please feel free to contact Professional Wills Ltd at +852 2561 9031 or Zetland at +852 3552 9085.

WillLegally, any child under the age of eighteen must have an adult who is responsible for them. What happens if both parents die in an accident? There are various possibilities depending in whether or not there has been an appointed of a new legal guardian.

If there is no Will...

If there is no Will or if it is out of date because it has not been re-written since the birth of children then there is a problem. If both parents have passed away and there is no evidence of guardians being appointed then the state takes over that responsibility until a guardian is found.

The court can then ask for applications from people who may be interested in taking on the legal guardianship. It will consider the applications, probably interview those applicants and then award the most appropriate the right to the children.

Godparents have no legal status although most people choose them with the thought at the back of their minds that these are the people that they would like to bring up the children if circumstances took their parents away.

If there was no Will, it could happen that both sets of grandparents apply and there is the possibility of a major falling out of the two families, benefiting nobody least of all the children.

What to do?

Make a Will appointing the legal guardians of your choice and outlining the financial arrangements that will ensure support for the guardians in their job. This is the hardest decision to make, especially if your children are still small, but the alternative is very unappealing.

The appointment must be made in a legal document e.g. in your Will or by a deed. Nothing else will guarantee that the preferred alternative parents of your children will be as you would wish!

It is a job that almost everyone puts off - or perhaps puts it in the too-hard basket. The peace of mind that comes knowing that this small but important job is finished is well worth the time and effort spent in completing the task.

Temporary Guardianship

Families in Hong Kong who are isolated from their normal extended family support group are particularly at risk in a situation such as described here.

Drafting temporary guardianship documents in which local friends or neighbours are appointed to take care of children until the legal guardians arrive from overseas is often a priority. Once completed these should be kept at home with one copy given to the temporary guardians. The Deed can immediately be produced by your temporary guardians to show their legal position and therefore preventing the children from being removed from their home.

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