BMO Harris Banking recently released the results of a survey examining guardianship among Canadians with children under the age of 18. Two thirds of survey respondents didn’t have a guardian named for their children, nor did they have a will, begging the question: who will take care of the children in the event of both parents’ death?
It’s a common misperception that if a child has a godparent there’s no need to assign a legal guardian.
“A godparent doesn’t have legal status,” explains Kamloops notary public Derrick Smoluk. “The bottom line is, everyone’s going to die, that’s certain. When you die too early and leave children under the age of 19 behind someone has to have guardianship of them.”
The ramifications of not designating a guardian can be costly and time consuming.
“Guardianship powers become a court appointment and it’s really the court that decides,” says Smoluk. “The unfortunate part of that is that it takes time, it costs a lot more money than doing a will and it can cause conflict within families.”
Approximately 80 per cent of the survey’s respondents had considered who they would appoint, with family topping the list.
“It’s good to see that Canadian parents with minor children are thinking about who they’d have take care of their loved ones, but they need to follow through with the next logical step and make it official,” says Sara Plant of BMO Harris Private Banking. “If something dire were to happen and a guardian has not been appointed, the process can become quite complex.”
Smoluk explains the three key considerations when preparing a will are deciding on an executor, allocating the distribution of your assets and appointing a guardian for your children.
“When you do a will, you decide. If you don’t do a will, it’s a court appointment,” he says.
Smoluk believes the court should be the last place an executor, beneficiary or guardianship decision should be made.
“A lot of the tools for people doing their personal planning are being put in the hands of the public by our government so that people can take care of it themselves. It’s available for you to set up now and in the event that anything happens you’ve taken care of it and you’ve made it easier for the people you’ve left behind.”
When put that way, having your affairs in order is a small price to pay for peace of mind.