Parents are considered guardians of their children at law, and issues can arise if a guardian passes away. If a guardian passes away, there are family law rules to consider that determine who will become the child’s guardian. These considerations apply to children under the age of 19.
If two parents were the joint guardians of the child, and one passes, the surviving guardian will assume sole guardianship and all parental responsibilities, unless a Court Order or agreement states otherwise. If only one parent was the child’s guardian, and they pass, the other parent does not automatically become the sole guardian. That said, the surviving parent of a child who is not a guardian may be appointed as guardian through an application to Court under the Family Law Act. This may be the case if one parent solely raised the child, while the non-guardian parent did not spend any regular time with the child. If a child does not have a guardian for a duration of time, the Public Guardian and Trustee (the PGT) will step in. The PGT is a BC corporation with the goal of protecting individuals who do not have legal capacity, such as children.
A parent who is a guardian of a child may choose to appoint a successor guardian. The guardian can do this through their Will or specified form under the Family Law Act. It is important to remember that the successor guardian cannot be granted more rights than the recently deceased guardian. Further, appointments of successor guardians can only be made in accordance with the “best interests of the child” principles. These principles are involved in nearly all aspects of family law and require that the best interests of the child be considered, such as the child’s mental and physical well-being.
The law surrounding guardianship can be complex. The experienced lawyers at Heath Law LLP are happy to assist you with family law and other types of legal matters.