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Junior ISA: What is 'parental responsibility'?

When we talk about who can open a junior ISA (JISA), we often mention parents, legal guardians and those with parental responsibility. But what exactly does parental responsibility mean in the context of JISAs?

What does 'parental responsibility' mean?

A child's legal guardian has "parental responsibility" for them. This means they legally have to provide them with shelter, protection, education, health, and much more.

Usually, this is the child's parents, but it could be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even a family friend. You can read more about parental responsibility and rights on the UK government website.

Only people over the age of 16 with parental responsibility for a child can open a JISA for them. They’ll also be the registered contact for that JISA until the child takes over, which they can do when they turn 16.

What does it mean to be a registered contact for a junior ISA?

Even though JISAs are opened under a child’s name, an adult needs to take on the role of “registered contact” on their behalf. The registered contact for a JISA is the person the provider (such as OneFamily) will contact about the account. They’re also the only person who can instruct the JISA provider on how to manage the account.

A registered contact can be changed, but there can only be one at any time. The first registered contact for a JISA is the person who opened it. Under certain circumstances, this can be changed by filling out an application form.

When the child turns 16, they can apply to become the registered contact for their own account. After they’ve done this, the registered contact can’t be changed anymore.

How do I manage my child’s junior ISA?

If you opened a JISA for your child, then you should be the registered contact for the account at least until they turn 16 and can take over their account. While you can’t withdraw any money, here are some of the things registered contacts can do with a child’s JISA.

  • Changing an account from a cash junior ISA to a stocks and shares junior ISA

The registered contact is able to change the kind of JISA their child has. It’s worth noting that a child can have both a cash JISA and a stocks and shares JISA in their name, but they can’t have any kind of JISA if they already have a Child Trust Fund.

  • Changing which provider the junior ISA is held with

The registered contact can transfer a junior ISA from one provider to another.

  • Reporting a change in circumstance

The registered contact for a JISA is the only person who can report a change of circumstance, for example if you have a new address. Log into your account to do this.

  • Managing the child’s junior ISA once they turn 18

When your child turns 18, they will automatically become the registered contact of the junior ISA.

If they're not able to manage their own account once they turn 18, for example if a disability stops them doing so, the existing registered contact can stay on to manage the JISA for them. Contact us to let us know the situation and we’ll be able to support you.

Who is the legal owner of a junior ISA?

The legal owner of a JISA is always the child it was opened for. The parent or guardian who is set as the registered contact for the account is simply helping to manage it and holding it for the child until they can access the funds at 18.

Can a parent access the money in a junior ISA?

The money in a junior ISA is locked-in for the child. They’re the only person who will ever be able to access it, and only when they turn 18. Parents or legal guardians can only access the money in the case of terminal illness or death of the child.

What happens to a junior ISA if the parent dies?

If the child is 16 or older when the registered contact for their junior ISA passes away, they can apply to take over the account.

If the person with parental responsibility for a child dies before the child turns 16, the child's new legal guardian can apply to become the registered contact on the child’s JISA. The process for this will vary between providers, but they’ll usually need to show the death certificate for the previous registered contact.

There are a few other cases where the consent of the registered contact isn’t required for a changeover, which you can find on the UK government website.

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Stocks and shares JISAs have good long-term growth potential, but the value of your investments can go up or down and your child could get back less money than you’ve put in.

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