By Scherzade Burden - Foreign Qualified Lawyer
For every parent, their child is an incredible gift. The way it makes you feel and changes your life is extremely hard to put into words. And every parent hopes that they will get to spend many years with their little ones. Few of us expect to pass away before they turn 18 so we may not realise we should be guarding against any possibility of their being taken into state care.
I recently became a mother for the first time. I have a beautiful baby boy for whom I want only the best and to spend all my free time with! His father and I have no plan to pop our clogs any time soon, but as an Estate Planning practitioner, I am aware of the importance of us appointing guardians for him as soon as possible.
I deal with many parents who come to talk to me about making a Deed of Appointment of Guardian and many of them are unaware of what will happen to their children if they both pass away before the children turn 18 whilst in Hong Kong. Others may have heard nightmarish stories and end up anxious and confused about this issue.
If only all parents knew that making one simple document would relieve them of their anxieties regarding the appointment of guardians. So here is a brief rundown of what you should know:
What you can do – make a Deed of Appointment of Guardian
This is a document that allows you to appoint guardians for your children that both parents sign in front of two witnesses. Although you can appoint guardians through your Will, the Deed of Appointment is most parents’ preferred method of appointing guardians, as it is an immediately available document granting legal authority to the guardians, in the unfortunate circumstances it is ever needed.
For expat parents, I will talk to them about appointing both guardians that are based in Hong Kong and those who are based abroad, so that for the interim period whilst the permanent guardians are travelling from abroad to Hong Kong to collect the children, they will be well looked after with their caring and trustworthy albeit temporary guardians in Hong Kong.
Even for the local Hong Kongese, it can be a good idea to appoint temporary guardians.
Why you should make a Deed of Appointment of Guardian
If you do not appoint guardians for your children and you pass away before they are 18 in Hong Kong, under the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (Cap. 13) your children will become wards of the court and the court alone will have the power to appoint guardians for your children. Therefore, rather than having no choice in the matter, whilst you are alive and have capacity to do so, you should seriously consider choosing the guardians you think are best equipped to bring up your children. Otherwise the choice will be left to the court and no parent wants for choices regarding the upbringing of their precious little ones being left to a court now do they?
Another important point to note is that court proceedings are often lengthy and if there is more than one person who would make an appropriate guardian, it could result in protracted litigation, could cause family feuds and worst of all cause instability and distress for your little, and not so little, ones.
When is the best time to make a Deed of Appointment?
You can make a valid legal document appointing guardians for even your unborn children, so even if your little bundle of joy has not yet arrived, you can make a Deed appointing Guardians for them.
How should I go about starting the process?
As a parent I really understand the implications of making the right choices for your little one so you are welcome to give me a no obligations call to have an initial discussion about making a Deed of Appointment of Guardian on 2868 0696 and we’ll take it from there!