Almost two thirds of parents have made no legal provision for who would raise their children if they were no longer able to care for them, research has found.
This means 65 per cent of parents had not made any arrangements, such as writing a will, according to data released by Direct Line Life Insurance today.
The analysis also found 42 per cent of parents had not discussed with their own partner who might look after their children if both of them were to die.
Even when parents had discussed who should raise their children, 17 per cent of the 2,002 adults quizzed in September, could not agree who they should ask to take on the responsibility.
Jane Morgan, business manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, said: "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."
The analysis also found 31 per cent of those who had discussed making legal provision for potential guardians would not give the person raising their children access to any money from their estate, as 30 per cent of parents would rather leave their estate in trust for their children, than to the person caring for them.
When people were asked why they had not made legal provision for the care of their children, 36 per cent said they had not considered it, while 18 per cent did not want to think of dying and their own mortality.
The data also found 24 per cent of people assumed their children would automatically be put into the care of their parents, or next of kin.
When it came to who would look after the children if both parents were to pass away, 28 per cent would expect their own parents to take them in, while 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 meant just 6 per cent of parents expected godparents to take on this responsibility.
Research among family law practitioners revealed that in the event both parents were to pass away and there was no previous legal provision made for the care of their children, the grandparents are most likely to be granted custody by the courts.