Many parents assume that if they have appointed a godparent for their child, that the godparent will be able to step in to take care of the children if they were to die, but this is not the case.
A godparent’s role is a moral and religious one; it is the role of a ‘sponsor’ and being named as a godparent to a child does not create a legal relationship between the godparent and the child. If both a child’s parents were to die the godparent would not automatically become the child’s guardian.
A guardian's role, on the other hand, is a legal one. If both of a child’s parents were to die whilst a child is a minor (under 18 years of age), the guardian would have legal rights and obligations in respect of the child.
You may wish to appoint the same person as godparent and guardian but, either way, to ensure that the person you wish to care for your minor child can do so in the event of your death it is important to legally appoint that person as a guardian.
You can do this within your will or (less commonly) by a separate formal document. It is important to take legal advice before legally appointing a guardian to ensure you understand how the appointment will work as this may be different depending on your circumstances i.e. who has parental responsibility for the children, whether you are married, unmarried, divorced, whether you wish to include conditions upon the appointment of the guardian and whether you wish to appoint a substitute guardian etc. It is also important to ensure the document is correctly executed so that the appointment is valid.
If you do not legally appoint a guardian, the court may appoint someone instead and this may not be the person you wish to care for your minor child.
So, if you have young children, to give you peace of mind, check your will to ensure that you have included a guardianship provision. Or, if you don’t already have a will in place, consider putting one in place and including a guardianship provision within it.