• Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of parents have made no legal provision for who would raise their children if they were to pass away
  • Amongst those who have planned who would look after their children, almost a third (31 per cent) wouldn’t leave any money for their care, but instead put this into a trust
  • Family law practitioners say courts are most likely to grant custody of orphaned children to their grandparents

New research1 from Direct Line Life Insurance reveals almost two thirds (65 per cent) of parents have made no legal provision (e.g. writing into a will) for who would raise their children if they were no longer able to care for them.

Whilst it is difficult to discuss who might look after the children if both parents were to pass away, millions of parents (42 per cent) haven’t even broached the issue with their partner. Even when parents have discussed who should raise their children, 17 per cent could not agree who they should ask to take on the responsibility.

Almost a third (31 per cent) of those who have discussed making legal provision for potential guardians wouldn’t give the person raising their children access to any money from their estate, as many parents (30 per cent) would rather leave their estate in trust for their children, than leave money to the person providing their care.

When people were asked why they haven’t made legal provision for the care of their children, more than a third (36 per cent) say they hadn’t considered it, while 18 per cent didn’t want to think of dying and their own mortality. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of people assumed their children would automatically be put into the care of their parents, or next of kin.

When it comes to who would look after the children if both parents were to pass away, most people would expect their own parents to take them in (28 per cent), while a fifth (20 per cent) would expect the child’s aunt or uncle to assume responsibility. Godparents may have been traditionally responsible for looking after their godchild in this situation, but changing religious and social trends mean just one in twenty (6 per cent) parents would expect godparents to take on this responsibility. Interestingly it appears it is the mother’s side that is most likely to be given custody of the children, with the mother’s parents ranking ahead of the father’s1.

Table one: Percentage of people who would be put off by a downstairs bathroom broken down by region

Who would be the primary care giver if your children were to pass away All Men Women
My parents 22 per cent 13 per cent 30 per cent
My child’s aunt/uncle (my side) 12 per cent 8 per cent 15 per cent
My child’s aunt/uncle (on the other parents’ side) 8 per cent 9 per cent 8 per cent
One of their older siblings 7 per cent 7 per cent 6 per cent
The other parents 6 per cent 8 per cent 5 per cent
Their godparents 6 per cent 10 per cent 2 per cent
My parents 22 per cent 13 per cent 30 per cent

Source: Direct Line Life Insurance

Jane Morgan, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, commented: “Thinking about who would take care of their children if they were to pass away is a parent’s worst nightmare. However, difficult it is to contemplate, it is incredibly important to have a plan in place should the worst happen.

“To prevent a custody battle, parents should make a legal provision for those who would be primary carers for their children, ensuring they would be happy to take on the responsibility. While they may be happy to step in, some people may struggle with the financial implications of bringing up someone else’s child, so it is important to consider this too.

“Life Insurance offers an affordable way for families to help look after loved ones financially if someone passes away, paying out a lump sum, to help deal with every day money concerns such as household bills.”

Research2 amongst family law practitioners reveals that in the event both parents were to pass away and there is no previous legal provision made for the care of their children, the grandparents are most likely to be granted custody by the courts. However, social services are likely to be awarded custody in more than a third of cases (36 per cent), unless a family member petitions to care for the child.

When judges determine who should have custody of a child whose parents have passed away they apply several criteria. Family law professionals highlight that in their experience, living in the same area where the child was raised previously is most important, followed by having other children for them to socialise with. Legal professionals also highlight that the child’s preference is unlikely to be taken into account, as it is more important to consider the biological relationship to the custodian and their financial suitability.

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Notes to Editors

1 Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,002 adults between 7th and 10th September 2018
2 Research conducted by PureProfile among 102 family law practitioners between 15th and 24th October 2018

For further information please contact:

Claire Jarrett
PR Manager
Direct Line Group
Tel: 01651 832 411
Email: claire.jarrett@directlinegroup.co.uk

Katie Ormrod
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Tel: 0207 282 1023
Email: katie.ormrod@citigatedewerogerson.com

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel, pet and life insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line life insurance policies are underwritten by Legal & General, registered office: One Coleman Street, London EC2R 5AA. Legal & General Assurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under number 117659. You can check the FCA register at www.fca.org.uk/register or call the FCA on 0800 111 6768 . Legal & General will introduce customers who select the Funeral Benefit Option to Dignity Funeral Services, who are members of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0800 145 5522 or visiting www.directline.com/life-cover