As many people travel home over the summer, the opportunity to discuss guardianship with family members arises. This reminds me of a conversation I had with my clients, Andrew and Pip (names changed for anonymity).


Andrew and Pip, an English couple living in Dubai with their two children, Alex and Lyn, faced an important decision: who should they appoint as their children’s guardian in their last will and testament? This decision could not be taken lightly, as they wanted to ensure their children’s well-being and future security.


The Role of a Guardian


I explained to Andrew and Pip that a guardian’s role is crucial. A guardian would be responsible for Alex and Lyn’s upbringing if something were to happen to them. The guardian would take on day-to-day responsibilities, providing a stable and loving environment, ensuring the children’s education, healthcare, and overall development.


Researching and Gathering Insights

Andrew and Pip began their journey by researching what makes a good guardian. We discussed that a suitable guardian should:


1. Share Similar Values: It was important that the guardian shared their values and parenting philosophy.
2. Emotional Stability: The guardian needed to be emotionally stable and capable of providing a nurturing environment.
3. Physical and Financial Capability: The guardian should be in good health and financially capable of taking on the responsibility.
4. Willingness and Ability: The chosen person must be willing to take on the role and able to manage the additional responsibility.
5. Existing Relationship with Children: It was beneficial if Alex and Lyn already had a strong, positive relationship with the potential guardian.


Considering Potential Guardians


With these criteria in mind, Andrew and Pip considered several family members and close friends. They weighed the pros and cons of each candidate, considering their current life situation, location, and how well they knew and understood their children.


Discussing the Decision


After narrowing down their choices, Andrew and Pip had open and honest conversations with the potential guardians. They discussed the responsibilities involved and ensured the candidates were genuinely willing and able to take on the role if necessary.


The Importance of a Temporary Guardian


Given their expatriate status, I pointed out the potential challenges if both parents died and the permanent guardian lived in a different country. Andrew and Pip recognised this issue and decided to appoint a temporary guardian who could immediately care for Alex and Lyn in Dubai until the permanent guardian could take over. This was crucial to ensure their children had stability and continuity in a familiar environment during a challenging time.


Selecting a Reserve Guardian


We also discussed the importance of having a backup plan. Andrew and Pip chose a reserve guardian in case their first choice was unable or unwilling to act when the time came. This additional layer of security ensured that Alex and Lyn would always have someone prepared to care for them, regardless of unforeseen circumstances.


Separating Guardian and Trustee Roles


Through our discussions, Andrew and Pip learned the importance of separating the roles of guardian and trustee. The guardian would be responsible for the children’s day-to-day care, while the trustee would manage the children’s inheritance and financial assets. This separation helps ensure checks and balances, reducing the risk of conflicts of interest and ensuring that the children’s financial needs are met without burdening the guardian with additional financial management responsibilities.


Making the Final Decision


Andrew and Pip ultimately chose Pip’s sister, Sarah, as the guardian. Sarah shared their values, had a close bond with Alex and Lyn, and was both emotionally and physically capable of taking on the role. They also appointed a trusted family friend in Dubai as the temporary guardian and selected a reserve guardian to ensure all bases were covered. For the trustee, they chose a trusted family friend with financial expertise to manage the children’s inheritance. This decision gave them confidence that Alex and Lyn would be well cared for in every aspect.


Documenting Their Wishes


With my help, Andrew and Pip documented their decisions in their will. They also added letters of wishes providing Sarah with guidance on how they would want their children to be raised.


Sharing Their Story


Andrew and Pip’s thoughtful approach to choosing a guardian became a topic of discussion among their friends. They shared their journey, highlighting the importance of careful consideration and planning. Their story serves as a reminder to all parents, especially expatriates, of the importance of making informed decisions to safeguard their children’s future.




Choosing a guardian is one of the most critical decisions parents can make in their estate planning. Andrew and Pip’s journey underscores the importance of understanding the role, conducting thorough research, and having open discussions with potential candidates. By thoughtfully selecting a guardian, a temporary guardian, and a reserve guardian, and by separating the roles of guardian and trustee, they ensured that their children would be well cared for and their future secure.