Over Half of UK Parents Have Not Made a Will
26 October 2018
A recent survey carried out by the charity Will Aid has revealed that 56% of parents with children under the age of 18 are yet to make a Will. This is a troubling statistic for a number of reasons.
If a parent dies without a legally valid Will in place, then not only will the law determine who inherits their money and possessions, but the authorities could also be tasked with deciding who should care for the children they have left behind.
Deciding Who Will Take Care of Your Children
When you make a Will, you are able to name the people that you would like to look after your children if you're no longer here to look after them yourself. You can say who should be the children's guardian(s) and also name backup guardians if these people are unable to step in when needed for any reason.
Before making your Will, you should sit down and have an open and honest conversation with anyone that you would like to name as a guardian in your Will. Obviously this is a huge commitment for anyone to agree to, so it's important that you talk about this before you name someone in your Will as the guardian of your children. This way you can be assured that they are willing and able to take this this commitment on if the need ever arises.
If the children have another parent who already cares for them either full or part time, you may feel that this is irrelevant as the other parent will naturally be the one to take care of them if you die. However, there's no way of predicting the future. If the worst happens and you both lose your lives in an accident, for example, what will happen then?
In this situation, it's likely that the decision would fall to the authorities. If the duty of assigning a new guardian for your children does fall to the local authority then there are processes and procedures that will need to be followed. In some situations, this can be a complicated process which could take time to finalise.
The best way to ensure that your children are properly protected in your absence and placed into the care of people you trust as quickly as possible is to set out these wishes in your Will, leaving no room for discrepancy.
Leaving Inheritance to Your Children
It's likely that you will want your children to inherit some of your Estate when you die. If you die without a Will in place, then inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy will determine how your Estate is passed on to your relatives. This places the deceased's spouse or civil partner as the main Beneficiary (i.e. the person entitled to inherit the most) followed by the deceased's children.
Under the Rules of Intestacy, your spouse might be set to inherit your whole Estate. If the Estate falls above a certain value, then a smaller proportion of this will also be divided equally among your children. This may not be how you want your Estate to be divided. By making a Will, you can set out exactly what should go to whom, dividing your Estate however you see fit.
Providing for Children from a Previous Relationship
If you have children from a previous relationship and you have since remarried, then without a Will everything may automatically pass to your spouse, who is then free to pass this on however they wish. This can result in your children receiving nothing at all from your Estate.
This chain of events is known as sideways disinheritance. By making a Will you can ensure that your children are provided for after you die. There is also the option to include a Trust in your Will to provide for your spouse during their lifetime, but ultimately pass your Estate down to your children after your spouse dies. This can be an effective solution to the sideways disinheritance trap.
Providing for Step Children
It's important to acknowledge that stepchildren are not recognised under the Rules of Intestacy, so if you have stepchildren that you would like to leave something to when you die, it's essential that you make a Will naming them as a Beneficiary of your Estate.
You can also appoint Trustees in your Will, who will be the people responsible for looking after your children's inheritance until they are legally able to receive this. You can decide at which point you want your children to receive their inheritance. This could be determined by their age or by other circumstances, such as their financial stability for example. Without a Will, all Beneficiaries are automatically entitled to receive their inheritance when they reach 18 years of age, but this might not be the best approach for everyone. By making a Will, you can tailor it to suit your and your family's individual circumstances.
How to Make a Will to Protect Children
Making a Will to protect children, and to provide for them, needn't be a complicated, longwinded or costly process. With Co-op Legal Services, our specialist Will writers will discuss your circumstances in detail and establish your needs, ensuring that you get a Will that is perfectly tailored to your individual requirements. Our fixed price Wills start from £150 (including VAT) for a Single Will.