This Blog was written by : Natalie Rouse
The 2017 Oscars are just around the corner and last year’s drama “Manchester By the Sea”, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, is sitting pretty. It has been nominated for a whopping 6 awards. It also recently won the Golden Globe for Best Actor, and was nominated in 4 other categories. The movie tells the story of Joe, who is a quiet and emotionally distant janitor, living each day haunted by events in his past. When he receives word that his brother has had a heart attack, and later passes away, Joe is forced to return to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea to break the news to his brother’s teenage son. He is shocked to learn that his brother has named him as the boy’s guardian. Joe feels neither prepared nor eager to accept this role.
Naming a guardian for a child/children is likely one of the most emotional and personal aspects involved in the estate planning process. As you may be aware, appointing a guardian in a Will is a temporary measure. The individual must still apply to the Court to become a permanent, legal guardian. They of course have the option of declining the role. This would result in the same outcome as failing to name a guardian. The PGT would be required to get involved, either to step into the role as guardian themselves, or to appoint someone else. This could potentially lead to unintended consequences. It is imperative to have a conversation with the proposed guardian ahead of time, to make sure that they are aware of the intentions and are in favour of the arrangement.
Some other basic items to consider when choosing a guardian are:
- Age and number of children
- Any special requirements (ie disabilities) and the additional financial requirements that result
- Where the guardian is located (will the children have to move?)
- Age of guardian
- The guardian’s future plans
The matter of a child’s guardianship is a sensitive one, and is wrought with hundreds of questions and possible scenarios. I would recommend opening the conversation with others you plan to involve as early as possible, and ensuring to update your plans as life circumstances change. “Manchester by the Sea” may have a happy ending (you’ll have to watch it to find out!) but only proper planning will make sure that the same is true for your children.