Who would look after your kids if you died?
Written by Lynda Calver on May 25, 2016.
Arranging guardianship of the children if they were to be orphaned is one of those tasks which lurk at the back of the minds of most parents but it is astonishing just how many never actually get around to doing it.
It’s very easy to procrastinate about sorting guardianship out because most of us live our lives believing that the freak accident/terrorist attack/heart failure/fatal car crash won’t happen to us. That’s generally a good thing - if we dwelt on every possible bad thing that could occur we’d be afraid to even get out of bed in the morning - but a touch of realism now and then is a necessity. Fortunately, it is unlikely that your children will be orphaned but the possibility exists and that is why you need to ensure that guardians are officially nominated with no room for error.
In Hong Kong, under the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance, failure to leave instructions to this end, either in your will or by deed, gives the court the right to appoint your child’s legal guardian and place them into care. There is no guarantee that would be the person that you choose. While I’m sure as a parent you feel that there is no-one out there who will do as good a job as you, you need to think carefully about who would be the most appropriate person. In the event of your death they will take full legal responsibility for your child and make all child-rearing decisions. You will want to select a friend or family member who will be able to cope both emotionally and financially, who is young enough to be around until your children reach adulthood and who shares your core values in life.
Often expats will appoint a guardian who is a family member living outside of Hong Kong. This obviously adds the complication of travel for the guardian to retrieve the child prior to repatriation. Given the time frames involved, sometimes expats will choose both a permanent guardian and also an interim guardian who lives locally – often a friend or helper - and who can care for the child while waiting for the permanent guardian to arrive.
This kind of micro-management might sound a little excessive but being orphaned is traumatic enough for anyone without being cared for by strangers for even a short amount of time.
It is so simple to put guardianship in place for your child it really isn’t worth putting it off any longer. If you’d like help with this or any other element of your estate planning, please get in touch with me.