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Essential Documents Every Parent Should Have

You care for your children in many different ways. Ensure your children are always cared for by learning about the important documents that can protect them when you're not around.

Essential documents for protecting your children

These are our top documents that parents around the world use every day to prioritize their children's interests.

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Step 1

Child Medical Consent

A Child Medical Consent is a document where a parent or guardian grants permission to another adult to make medical decisions for a minor child.

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Step 2

Child Travel Consent

A Child Travel Consent gives a minor child parental permission to travel with a group, one parent, another person, or alone.

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Step 3

Last Will & Testament

A Last Will and Testament is an important legal document that allows an individual to appoint an executor and specify how they would like their assets...

Last updated October 25, 2022

Whether you have little ones, teenagers, or adult children, planning ahead is crucial when you’re a parent

To give yourself peace of mind, it’s important to create the right legal documents.

Not only can you leave an inheritance for your kids, but you can also appoint a temporary guardian, give consent for people to act in certain situations, and generally make life easier for them. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the essential documents that help parents safeguard their children’s health, finances, and quality of life. 

Giving authority to temporary guardians

If you have dependent children and can’t be present to take care of them, it’s critical to give their temporary guardian the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. 

Certain documents can help reduce the barriers temporary guardians or personal representatives may face when caring for your kids.

Whether it’s with a school group, sports team, friends, or other family members, your child may need to travel without one or both legal guardians. 

At times like these, you’ll need a Child Travel Consent form. If someone questions why your child is travelling without you, this document is evidence that you gave them permission to do so.

For instance, some travel authorities may request a Child Travel Consent before they’ll allow a solo child to enter or leave their borders.

Moreover, if you’re a single or divorced parent with shared custody, UK laws require you to get permission from the child’s other legal guardian before taking your child abroad. 

In addition to a Child Travel Consent, you may need documents to prove parental responsibility. This could be a birth certificate that lists both parents or a court order that grants sole custody. These documents are especially helpful if your child has a different last name than you.

Learn more about a Child Travel Consent

If you’re going to be separated from your child for a time, it’s practical to create a Child Medical Consent in case of emergencies. With this form, you can give your child’s temporary guardian permission to:

  • Consent to certain medical treatments
  • Read your child’s health records
  • Access your insurance records

This document helps your child’s caregiver address any new or chronic health conditions. More importantly, it helps medical professionals act quickly when your child needs healthcare.

If caregivers or healthcare professionals act without proper consent, they may face legal consequences (although, there may be exceptions in emergency situations).

Alternatively, your child’s condition could worsen or cause them physical pain while healthcare workers wait for permission to act.

Prepare for emergencies with a Child Medical Consent form

Power of Attorney

Do you know who would care for your kids when you’re unavailable or incapacitated? 

How can you be proactive and set this person up for success? After all, accidents or extreme weather events can happen quickly and unexpectedly.

By creating a Power of Attorney (POA), you can designate legal powers to someone acting on your behalf (i.e., your attorney). With this power, your attorney could access the funds you’ve set aside to care for your children. They can also pay your bills and ensure your household runs as normal until you return. (Keep in mind that you can control when your POA goes into effect, so the person managing your affairs can only do so when needed.)

Without a POA, your chosen representative may run into trouble when trying to handle your financial affairs. For instance, many banks require this document before allowing someone else into your accounts. 

When you have children, it’s important to plan ahead financially. Consider creating a savings account that can cover your typical monthly budget for an extended time. This budget might include:

  • Recurring expenses, such as sports activities or music lessons
  • Diapers, clothing, food, and other upfront expenses
  • Educational fees
  • Child care

Then, let your attorney know about these costs and how to access the funds to pay them. This is the best way to prepare for situations when you may lose out on income or the ability to be present with your kids.

Keep in mind that a POA typically limits the authority of your attorney to the terms stated in the document. Plus, these powers automatically end when you die. As such, it’s crucial to consider who you’d appoint to be a legal guardian for your kids. Otherwise, government officials may be the ones making decisions about your child’s care in your absence.

Learn more about Lasting and Ordinary Powers of Attorney

Creating a legacy of care

We’ve covered three legal documents that can help people take care of your child when you’re temporarily unavailable. But what about when you pass away?

Without an estate plan, family and inheritance laws typically dictate what happens to your assets and any dependent children

If you want courts to respect your wishes, it’s best to use documents like a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust to designate assets and a guardian for your children.

A Last Will and Testament is arguably one of the most important estate-planning documents to create when you’re a parent. This is because you can use it to choose who becomes your child’s legal guardian should they need one when you die.

To appoint a legal guardian, everyone with parental responsibility must give their consent. The guardian must also be over 18 years old.

The guardian you name will be legally responsible for your children’s health, education, and wellbeing until they’re adults. As such, it’s important to consider several things when deciding on a legal guardian for your kids:

1. Determine guardianship criteria

Voice your honest opinions about raising your kids to identify the type of person you want as a guardian. For example, consider:

  • What kind of education, morals, and beliefs do you wish to instil in your kids?
  • What, if any, religious teaching and traditions would you like passed down?
  • How should their health be managed? Is there a certain diet they follow?

After brainstorming the qualities of an ideal guardian, match your criteria to a shortlist of potential candidates.

2. Choose candidates and finalise your decision

You may have a few guardian candidates in mind, whether they’re family or friends. If so, look at each candidate separately and ask these questions:

  • Is this person physically and financially able to be a guardian?
  • What is their current relationship with your kids like?
  • If they also have children, how would your kids fit into their family structure?
  • Would your children have to move far to be with them?
  • Do they have a stable lifestyle that can adjust to such a major responsibility?

After answering these questions, you can narrow down your choices to a single candidate who’s ready for the responsibility.

3. Discuss the responsibilities with the guardian

Once you’ve selected the right guardian for your children, set a time to meet with them and discuss the responsibility. 

Asking someone to care for your children in your absence is a deeply personal decision. Plus, the guardianship is effective immediately when both parents die. 

Although you don’t have to talk about the fine details of becoming a legal guardian, you should talk about your expectations for your child’s upbringing. 

4. Name the guardian in your Last Will

Ready to start writing your estate plan?

Leaving an inheritance

Several factors play a part when deciding how much to leave to who, such as your kids’ age, your relationship with them, and what level of support they need at this stage of their lives.

That’s why it’s essential to record your wishes in a Last Will and Testament if you want to ensure your family inherits your estate on your terms

Inheritance rights

If you die without a Will (i.e., intestate), your estate gets distributed according to law, which varies by country in the United Kingdom:

Country Legislation
England & Wales Administration of Estates Act 1925
Scotland Succession Act 1964
Northern Ireland Administration of Estates Act 1955

Typically, children are second in line to inheritances. In Northern Ireland, for example, your children are set to inherit equal parts of your estate after your spouse or partner.

This means that any children you have (by birth or adoption) have the right to claim an inheritance when you die. Stepchildren are not your natural heirs unless you adopted them. So, if you’re part of a blended family, your children and adopted stepchildren would be entitled to an equal share. 

To avoid having your estate go through the default rules for succession, you must specify your wishes in a Will or Living Trust.

Control who gets your assets after death

Using a Living Trust to distribute assets

For most people, a Last Will and Testament works well for specifying inheritances. However, you may wish to speed up the transfer of ownership if you own a business, real estate, or other high-valued assets.

For example, you might want your business to stay in the family and continue its daily operations when you pass away. 

In this case, a Revocable Living Trust may be what you need. This document goes through a quicker legal process than a Will—which typically goes through probate.

Deciding who gets what

If you’re a parent of multiple children, you’ll need to decide if you should be equal or equitable. That means asking yourself how much support each child needs from you to be fair:

  • Does anyone have a disability or health condition?
  • Have they each completed school, and did you finance that?
  • What other financial contributions did you give to each child?

After considering these questions, you may discover that an unequal inheritance reflects a better balance of support for each of your children over your lifetime. You need to reflect this choice in your Last Will or Living Trust.

Disinheriting a child 

If you want to disinherit an adult child, you should do so explicitly in your Last Will and Testament or Living Trust

In this case, list all your children and add a clause to disinherit one child specifically. Otherwise, if you simply leave out a child, a court may assume that you made a mistake and may re-interpret the Will to include the missing child.

As mentioned, children typically have the right to claim an inheritance according to the law. However, adults in the UK also have testamentary freedom, and there are many reasons why they might not want to leave anything to a child.

If a disinherited child makes a claim to your estate, it will be up to the courts to strike a balance and decide what happens in the end. The courts will consider your Will as evidence of your intent to disinherit them. This might be especially helpful if you include your reasons for disinheriting the child.

Writing instructions for adult children

In many families, adult children are responsible for caring for their elderly parents. However, life is unpredictable, and you never know when or where you could become incapacitated. 

As such, it’s helpful to write instructions to your adult children in case they need to manage your affairs in your absence. 

Health care planning

Save your loved ones the trouble of making difficult healthcare decisions for you by creating a Living Will, also called an Advance Decision or Health Care Directive. 

If you’re incapacitated or have a terminal condition, your family will likely be struggling with a wide range of emotions. If you’re unable to communicate, healthcare professionals may ask your family how to proceed with healthcare treatments. 

In this case, you can spare them the grief of not knowing what to do by detailing your values, beliefs, and wishes regarding healthcare. 

General estate planning

If your adult children are involved in your estate plans, it’s crucial to inform them of their responsibilities. 

Make sure they know where and how to access important documents. Also, consider writing instructions that detail the steps they’d need to take to execute certain documents like a Last Will and Testament. This might include details about inheritance taxes and probate court procedures.

Learn more about estate planning in the UK

Planning your child’s care

LawDepot’s document library is here to help you take care of your kids from the time they’re little until they’re grown up. 

Whether you’re writing a permission slip or considering what to leave as an inheritance, we’ve got your back.

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