How to appoint someone to look after the child you care for should you die.
Planning for health emergencies in kinship care
Practical steps you can take to plan for what will happen to the children if you become ill or die.
Kinship carers often worry about what will happen to the children they are caring for if they become ill or die. Planning for the children you are caring for will not only give you peace of mind, it will also help prevent any confusion regarding your wishes in the future.
There are steps you can take to make sure the children you are caring for will be okay if you die or are unable to continue looking after them due to poor health.
Name a testamentary guardian in your will
It is important to appoint a guardian to look after any children you are caring for should you die. It means that you can make sure the children you are caring for will be looked after by someone you trust, or someone that already has a relationship with them. This is called ‘testamentary guardianship’.
A testamentary guardian is a person that you appoint in your will to care for a child should you die. Once appointed, a testamentary guardian takes on full parental responsibility for the child.
A testamentary guardianship only comes into effect when the special guardian dies.
Kinship carers who hold a Child Arrangements Order could also appointment a testamentary guardian, but only if there is no surviving person with parental responsibility, including a special guardian.
Who cares for the children if you become temporarily ill?
Below are some steps you can take to make sure your wishes about who cares for the children are respected, if you become temporarily ill.
- Talk to your family and friends to identify somebody who would be willing to step in and look after the children if you become unwell or mentally incapacitated. It could be a relative or friend who agrees to look after them until you are able to again.
- Inform as many people as you can of your wishes. Make sure they are aware of the person you have nominated to care for the children. It may be worth thinking about who might need to know this information. For example, it could include:
- children’s services
- children’s parents
- next of kin
- Put something in writing to say that you would like the nominated person to look after the children if you are not able to. Provide their name and contact details. You may also want to include that you are temporarily delegating parental responsibility to that person. The document should be dated and signed in front of a witness who should also date and sign the document.
Here is a template letter (DOCX – 17 KB) you can use. This will not be a legally binding agreement, but it should prevent any confusion about who should care for the children until the nominated person is able to formalise the arrangement.
Again, Kinship carers who hold a Child Arrangements Order can only delegate parental responsibility, if there is no surviving person with parental responsibility, including a special guardian.
Seek legal advice
If you become unwell and you are not able to look after the children long term, the nominated person may wish to seek legal advice about applying for a child arrangements order. This would give the nominated person parental responsibility for the child. The formal document you signed nominating the person will also help the courts and show that you agree for the chosen person to care for the children.
Before applying to the court, the nominated person should seek legal advice.
Sources of support
There are a number of organisations that can offer you support with accessing legal advice.
- Advocate is a charity which connects you with volunteer barristers for legal advice.
- Coram Children’s Legal Centre runs a helpline for legal advice and has family law advice resources available online.
- Family Rights Group gives free and confidential advice to families who are dealing with local authority children’s services.
- Grandparents Legal Centre provides specialist legal advice for grandparents.
- The Law Society has a Find a solicitor service that helps you find a solicitor in your area who’s accredited in family law.
- NYAS is a charity that offers legal advice and represents children, young people and vulnerable adults.
- Support through Court is a free, volunteer-led service that supports people who are facing court without legal representation.