Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Canadian parents have not appointed a guardian for their minor children, according to a recent study conducted by BMO Private Harris Banking.
In British Columbia if both parents die without appointing a guardian for their minor child, the Public Guardian and Trustee becomes guardian of the child’s estate, and the Ministry of Child and Family Development becomes guardian of the child, with responsibility for the child’s upbringing, health and education. A person may then apply to court to become the child’s guardian, and a judge will make a decision based on what he or she believes to be in the child’s best interests. Problems arise, however, if there are competing applicants, or, if there are no applicants, the child may be placed in foster care. The process may be complex, expensive and, more importantly, the parents have no control over who raises their child.
It is therefore critical for parents to legally appoint someone they trust to be the guardian, and they can do so by naming that person (or persons) in their wills. Further, parents can appoint in their wills a guardian (trustee) for the child’s estate as well as for the child. Parents should first discuss their wishes with the intended guardian to ensure he or she is willing to take on the responsibility.
The law provides us with tools to plan for the future; we should take advantage of that opportunity, especially when it comes to something as important as our children.
Contact Jennifer Chew of DuMoulin Boskovich LLP for your legal needs.