When you are a parent to young children, life can be a daily demanding obstacle course! Getting everyone up, ready for nursery/school and getting into work… then after a busy day at work, coming home, cooking for the family, helping with homework, bathtime, bedtime… and then just to do it all over again the next day! You deserve congratulations just for successfully getting through each day without any major catastrophes.
Protecting your children
However, while you are busy taking care of your children each day, are you forgetting to really protect them?
It is easy to avoid thinking about what would happen to them if you were to die. It is a terrible thought and the consequences can be overwhelming. However, it is important to face these issues and put things in place to ensure they are protected if the worst should happen.
Why every parent needs a will
A will is a document that specifies who will inherit your bank accounts, property, cars and all possessions after you die. You can leave everything to one person or divide it up into small, specific portions, but a will is much more than that – especially if you have children.
For parents, making a will is the single most important thing you can do to make sure your child is cared for by the people you would choose if anything should happen to you.
Lee Young is an Partner in our Wills & Tax Team and a father of two. He understands the pressures of family life, but also advocates that making a will is one of the most positive things you can do for your family's future.
He says, “Planning can ensure the best possible outcome for the generations to come. A will gives you control over the future of your assets and possessions, avoiding disputes or misunderstandings. Making the right choices depends on clear, practical advice and my colleagues and I offer honest and friendly guidance on preparing or updating your will. It is a very sensible thing for every parent to put in place for their family.”
Guardians and trustees
In your will you can designate a person (known as a guardian) to care for your children if you die before they become legal adults (at age 18).
If you want your children to inherit your money and property, you may also designate a trustee to manage those assets for your children until they reach adulthood. You can appoint the same people to act as both guardians and trustees, or choose two or more different people to carry out the separate roles.
You would also appoint an executor of your will. This streamlines the process of dealing with your affairs after you are gone. The executor deals with paying any debts, bills and taxes and then ensures that the rest of your estate goes to the people that you have chosen.
What would happen if I died without having made a will?
Without a will, there is no guarantee that when you die your money will go to the people you want, in the percentages that you would have liked, or that your children will be cared for by the person you believe will do this the best.
If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died intestate. The courts will then divide your wealth and assets in accordance with the intestacy rules. Dealing with such an estate can be very complicated. More information on what happens when someone dies without leaving a will.
What should be included in my will?
Here are a few ideas to start you off:
- Make a list of all your assets, including bank accounts, investments, property, life insurance and personal possessions.
- Decide exactly whom you want to inherit what, and when. For instance, you might want your daughter to inherit her grandmother's gold bracelet when she turns 16.
- Choose a guardian for your children.
- Choose an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to do the job.
- Decide whether you want someone else to handle the assets that you leave your children. If so, choose that person.
- Choose an executor to carry out your wishes and handle the necessary paperwork after you die.
You may also decide to include a letter stating how you would like your children to be raised and educated, what funeral arrangements you wish to take place and so on.
Lee concludes, “Speak to a solicitor to explain these wishes and ask them to draw up your will. The cost of doing this is incredibly small in comparison to the possible disputes, misunderstandings and tax implications that could be caused by a DIY version of a will.”
Our Wills & Tax Law Team are happy to discuss any issues that this raises for you. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Lee or a member of the team will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.