For most of us, one of the most unconditional love that we experience in life is parental love. Parents care deeply for their child and assume responsibility for most aspects of a child’s well-being – from clothes and food to safety and a roof over their head. No one likes to think about death, but if you have a child, it may be especially important to think about what will happen your child in the event of your untimely death – who will take your place in caring for your child that you inadvertently leave behind?
Whose care will your children be left under?
It is important to consider and anticipate the potential scenarios that may occur in the event of your unfortunate death – there may not be a surviving parent, or you may have been divorced from your spouse. What happens the care and custody of your child in those scenarios?
If you do not have a will appointing a specific guardian for your child, you will surrender such control to the courts. Any person can go to court and apply for guardianship of your child, and the court will determine and grant guardianship to that person on the basis of the child’s welfare as the main consideration. However, if no person makes an application to the courts for guardianship, the child will be temporarily placed under the care and protection of Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), and MSF will endeavour to find and appoint a fit person as a legal guardian for the child.
A testamentary guardian is another person appointed in a will who does not have to be biologically related to the children. Under the Guardianship of Infants Act, parents are allowed to appoint anyone they see fit to be a testamentary guardian for their children. This means that you would have gone through discussions with such testamentary guardian regarding his or her appointment as the caregiver of your child in the event of your demise, and he or she must have agreed to such an appointment. Upon your death, the testamentary guardian, under your will, will seek to make an application to the Singapore courts to be made guardian of the child.
Appointing a Guardian
Who can be appointed as a guardian?
The person appointed as a testamentary guardian must be a Singapore resident. A testamentary guardian does not have to be biologically related to your family and you will also be able to appoint close friends to be guardians.
You can appoint more than one guardian for your child.
When appointing a guardian, there are some things you should consider:
How to appoint a guardian
You can appoint a testamentary guardian by way of a deed or will. In your will, you should specify any limits on the guardian’s power and authority, which may include the authority to manage and administer the inherited assets on behalf of your child. You should also specify the circumstances in which guardianship will be terminated. Termination of guardianship usually occurs when the child reaches the age of 21.
If there is a surviving parent, the testamentary guardian(s) that you have appointed will act jointly with the surviving parent. If the other parent has also appointed other guardians in his or her will (different from the guardian(s) which you have appointed in your will), these guardians will act jointly in their appointed capacity after the death of both parents. All the legal guardians acting jointly will need to agree on the decisions made in relation to the care and welfare of the child.
What if joint guardians disagree on how the children should be raised after your demise? When this happens, any guardian can apply to the court for direction. The court will consider the interests of the child, and may in its discretion issue the following directions:
We do not like to think about it, but death can happen at any time. For something as paramount as the well-being of your child, it is more desirable to appoint a guardian of choice for your child than to leave it to the courts.