Q: I have chosen two close friends as godparents for my 9 month old daughter. Does this mean that the people I have chosen will automatically have the right to care for her if I die before she reaches adulthood?
A: Appointing people as godparents will not entitle them to care for your daughter in the event of your death. The law does not provide godparents with any specific rights in terms of caring for their godchildren following the death of the child’s parents. To ensure that your daughter’s godparents are able to care for your daughter you will need to appoint them as “testamentary guardians” in a Will.
The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of parental responsibility. Your daughter’s guardians would assume parental responsibility immediately in the event that you were to die before your daughter reached the age of 18. This would enable them to exercise all of the rights and responsibilities which a parent has over a child.
It is important to remember that the appointment of testamentary guardians will only take effect if there is no surviving parent with parental responsibility. You have not mentioned the circumstances relating to your child’s father. If he also has parental responsibility for your daughter, this will mean that if he survives you he will be entitled to take over your daughter’s care, rather than the testamentary guardians you appoint. Ideally, this is something you should discuss and take advice on together to ensure that you are both content with what will happen if either of you should pass away before your daughter reaches 18.
It is also advisable for anyone with young children to make a Will. If you have not made a Will you should consider making an appointment with a solicitor to do so.