Why all parents should have a will in place

About the Author

Name: Roz Wyeth

Title: Head of Wills, Trust & Probate

Email: rw@donnelly-elliott.co.uk

Telephone: 023 9250 5500

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Writing a will is the only legal way to state how your child should be cared for, should anything happen to you.

Writing a will is not a subject that many like to think about, however, as a parent, making a will is essential.

Approximately 30 million adults in the UK currently haven not written their will yet. A will does not have an expiry date, meaning that once you have written a will; it can last throughout your lifetime. However, it is advisable to review your will when specific circumstances in your life change, for example, if you get married, have grandchildren or inherit a large sum of money.

What happens to my children if die without a will?

If you die without writing a will, you will be deemed to have died ‘intestate’ and the intestacy rules will apply to your estate. This means all decisions about your estate, including the care provisions for your children, will be made by the state.

If one parent dies without a will, then the other parent automatically receives parental responsibility for any children under the age of 18. If both parents die without a will, the court will appoint guardians for them.

How will the courts appoint a guardian for my child?

The courts may opt to appoint guardians from blood relatives. As the courts will not have detailed knowledge about your family situation, this can cause a few issues. For example, if you and your children live with your partner but you’re not married your partner may be overlooked. Additionally, you may be estranged from blood relatives or have personal reasons why you would not like your children to be looked after by certain members of your family.

Nominating guardians is a serious decision, which the courts will not rush. This means that while they are appointing guardians, your children may need to be taken into care.

What can I specify for my children in my will?

By writing a legally valid will, you are able to nominate guardians for your child/children, ensuring they are cared for by chosen individuals that you know and trust.

If your child is under the age of 16, they may need a guardian to act on their behalf. Once they have reached the age of 16, you are no longer able to assign a guardian to the child as they are classed as having legal capacity at that age.

The legal guardian you choose to appoint needs to be given careful thought as they will assume all of the same parental responsibilities and rights that a parent has. You should also discuss this with the potential guardian to ensure that they are willing to take on this role.

Providing for your children financially

Another benefit of writing a will is that you  can set out what happens to your finances and include your children as beneficiaries of your will.

When writing your will, you are able to specify the age of inheritance for your child. Some parents may think that 18 is too young an age to expect a child to be financially responsible. If so, you can specify certain conditions for your will, this could be a higher inheritance age or a limit on what they can receive when, ensuring they have long term financial support.

If you have step-children they will not automatically receive any inheritance from your estate unless you specify this within your will or you have legally adopted them.

Writing a will ensures that should the worst happen, you know that your children will be provided for.

If you would like to talk more about your options and discuss it with a legal expert, fill out the form below and a member of the team will be in touch. Alternatively, you can click here to find out more about our services.