Below is my article kindly published today in the Beaconsfield NCT Newsletter, about Wills for Parents.
What if you died unexpectedly, leaving your children behind? It’s the most horrible thought, but accidents and illnesses do sometimes happen. One of the most crucial things that we as parents can do to safeguard our family’s future is to take control of what would happen in that situation, by making a Will.
If you died without a Will, your estate would be dealt with according to the laws of intestacy. As the parent of young children, there are two issues arising from an intestacy which you are likely be particularly unhappy with:
- A Court will choose your children’s guardians.
A court would decide who would be appointed as guardian(s) to look after your minor children, if you and your spouse/partner had died. This is obviously far from ideal. You know your family best, and in your Will, you can appoint guardians of your choice for your children, allowing you to choose the person or persons whom you feel happiest with to look after them. You may also like to write a letter of wishes to the guardians, setting out your thoughts about how you would like your children to be brought up.
- Your children will inherit aged only 18.
Without a Will, the default position is that your children would inherit from you outright aged only 18. In your Will, you can set up a trust for your children’s benefit to delay the age at which they will inherit your assets beyond age 18, to 21, 25 or even later, depending on your preference.
What impact does my marital status have on my Will?
Marriage revokes a Will, so if you have got married since you last made a Will, you should consider making a new one as soon as possible.
If you are married but do not have a Will, contrary to popular belief, all of your assets would not automatically pass to your spouse. Your husband/wife would get your personal belongings and the first £250,000. The balance would be split in half, with 50% going to your spouse and the other 50% going to your children outright at age 18. In Beaconsfield, where the average house price according to Zoopla is over £1m, that means that if you died without a Will a large amount of money could end up in your children’s hands at age 18. Most parents would prefer to delay this until their children are older and more mature.
- Married for a second time
Providing for two families is complicated. The usual solution is to set up a life interest trust in your Will that will allow you to carefully balance the needs of your second wife/husband with those of your children. The life interest will allow your husband/wife to receive any income from your assets and to live in the house for their lifetime, whilst ultimately keeping your capital safe for your children. It may also be possible to pass assets out of the trust to your children during your spouse’s lifetime, free of inheritance tax.
If you have separated from your spouse and have not yet changed your Will, you need to do so urgently. Your wishes about who should receive your assets on death are likely to have changed dramatically. Until you divorce (i.e. you receive your decree absolute), your soon-to-be-ex husband/wife can still benefit either under your Will or on intestacy. It’s crucial for you to update your Will.
Divorce doesn’t revoke your Will, but it does automatically revoke any provision in it in favour of your ex-husband or wife, so that the Will is read as if he/she didn’t exist. If you are now divorced, you should check that your Will still reflects your wishes. It’s likely to be time to update it.
- Unmarried partners
If you are not married and you died without a Will, your partner would have no automatic right to receive anything from your estate, which could put him/her in a difficult financial position. He/she may instead be able to make a claim against your estate, but that is an uncertain and expensive process. Depending on how your family is made up, your assets would instead pass to your children equally at age 18, whom failing to your parents, whom failing to your siblings. If you and your partner aren’t married and you want to provide for each other on death, it is essential that you make Wills.
Whatever your circumstances, if you have children and/or own a property, it’s very important to have in place at least a simple Will. This can be done affordably, and the meeting should only take about an hour. Make it your New Year’s resolution for 2020 to get around to making your Will. As responsible parents, we should all have one.
|Rebecca D’Arcy lives near Beaconsfield and has two children. She practised as a Private Client solicitor in London before setting up her own business, Chiltern Wills, in order to work more flexibly around her young family. Chiltern Wills offers a fixed-price Will writing service. Contact Rebecca today to discuss making your Will. Telephone: 07544 091039 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.chilternwills.com|
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