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Choosing The Right Person For The Job: Steps To Appointing A Legal Guardian

Legal guardiansNo parent wants to think that they will not be around to see their children grow into adulthood and for this reason we tend to procrastinate appointing a legal guardian for our children.


Staggering statistics

In a 2005 general household survey, it indicated there were approximately 3.4 million -orphans’ in South Africa.

There are 3 types of orphans:

  • A maternal orphan is a child who has lost its mother
  • A paternal orphan is a child who has lost its father
  • A double orphan is a child who has lost both its parents


What happens if there is no legal guardian?

A child social worker is assigned an average of 300-600 orphan cases every month as nationally there are 25 000 foster care cases being handled monthly by Child Welfare alone. Should your child be placed in an orphanage awaiting a foster home and eventually adoption, the process can take up to 18 months on average. There is very little hope that every child will find a home to go to.

When a person dies without a will their assets are distributed using a standard formula. Their assets usually go first to their spouse, children and then to their parents and siblings. In the unfortunate event that both parents die without a will naming a legal guardian, a social worker investigates the family situation. Your child is likely to go to the next of kin, provided that they can financially look after your child, and if it’s a grandparent over 55 whether or not they have a sound support system to help. A judge then makes the final decision.

These facts should be enough for any parent to ensure they have an appointed legal guardian.


Choosing the best legal guardian for your child

Foremost, a legal guardian should not be appointed based on a popularity contest. Your best friend may not be suited at all for the task and putting their feelings before the welfare of your child is a terrible mistake.

Various aspects should be taken into account:

  • Is this person financially stable to look after a child?
  • Does the person share the same beliefs, morals and ethics as you?
  • Is there a close bond between your child and prospective guardian?
  • Is this person willing to take on this responsibility?

You should discuss your intentions with this person to ensure that he/she is willing and able to take on the responsibility of raising your child. Ensure that the soon-to-be named legal guardian is fully aware of what you want for your child in respect to education, life style and religion. It is also wise to name a back- up guardian should circumstances change.


Making it legal

Now that everything has been discussed and both parties are comfortable with the outcome, it’s time to make it legal.

The financial institute with whom you hold your life insurance policy should be able to refer you to a legal representative who can assist you in drawing up a will for a nominal fee. You can also approach a bank or attorneys.

To ease the financial burden of having a child all of a sudden, it’s worth considering  having life policies   divided between children and guardians. Both parents should have individual life policies of which a portion should be paid out to the guardians to help give your child everything you wanted to. The second policy should be paid out in stages to your children, at suitable ages.

After all is said and done, should the unthinkable happen and this will needs to come into effect, a judge will still decide whether or not this person is suitable, however most courts will respect the wishes of the parents.

 – Roxanne

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