Whether you’re a ‘worst case scenario’ mum or not, it’s any parent’s nightmare to think about their children being orphaned in the event that something happens to both parents. But, what if the unthinkable did happen in Singapore, and with extended families many hours away on different continents? Who do we have to fall back on in the aftermath? Who can we trust to take care of our children before our relatives arrive and our main will is executed? From choosing a legal guardian to getting temporary guardianship letter, here are some must-do’s to ensure our children’s welfare.
Guardianship in Singapore
Most of us don’t even want to think about guardianship in Singapore. But, as an expat living here with kids, there are measures you must take to ensure a more seamless process should both parents pass.
So, what exactly needs to be done to ensure that your kids don’t experience the extra trauma of being placed in foster care while your main will is being executed? Here are two vital steps, according to Sarah-Mae Thomas, managing director of Sarah-Mae Thomas LLC.
#1 Make sure a legal guardian is named in your will
What happens if both parents pass but no legal guardian is named in the will? The Courts will have to make a decision as to whom is the best person to be appointed as your children’s guardian. For this reason, it’s best to ensure that you appoint a legal guardian in your will, says Sarah-Mae.
She suggests keeping your will updated to ensure all relevant scenarios are covered. She also suggests choosing a trusted family member or close family friend as your legal guardian.
#2 Appoint a temporary guardian
Most of us don’t have a temporary guardian in place. But, we should.
In the event of both parents passing at the same time, it would take some time for the permanent guardian to arrive in the country where the child lives. A temporary guardianship letter can appoint local friends of the family to look after the children until the permanent guardians arrive. Without this letter, the Singapore authorities will look after the children.
Therefore, it’s important to appoint a temporary guardian in the country that your child resides in. Of course, it’s also vital that the person you’ve appointed as temporary guardian is aware of their role, explains Sarah-Mae.
How to give temporary guardianship
“You can appoint a temporary guardian by either taking out a Court application or by doing a temporary guardianship letter,” she says.
Most parents would name a friend in Singapore – maybe parents whose children are friends of their children. However, a helper should not be appointed, as she may lose her legal right to be in Singapore upon her employer’s death.
“While you might rely on your foreign domestic helper for many things, it’s not recommended that you appoint them to be a temporary guardian for you children,” says Sarah-Mae. “Their work permits are usually pegged to their employer. If their employer passes away, their work permit is likely to be terminated in that instance. This would unnecessarily place your children in a difficult position.”
The court of protection has the ultimate say over guardians. So, if they deem your temporary guardian to be unsafe for any reason, they could overrule this. However, this scenario is very unlikely.
Here’s more information on making a will.