Why write a will?
It may not be top of your agenda when the bottles need warming and your little bundle of joy is hungry (again!), but your will, which legally lays out your final wishes and instructions for how your possessions are to be divided, can help protect your new family when you’re no longer around.
A will offers a way to prepare for what may come, giving your loved ones peace of mind, and saving a lot of heartache later.
You should generally make or update a will when you experience any big life event, like getting married, moving home, or bringing a little baby into the world.
What happens if you don’t have a will?
When you don’t have a will, you have no say in who receives an inheritance from you. Because there’s no legal record of your wishes, the state will simply divide your home and possessions according to the rules of intestacy.
Dying intestate can be especially hard on some families.
So, for instance, if you’re not married or in a civil partnership, then your partner isn’t legally entitled to inherit any part of your estate. Neither are step-children or relations through marriage. In each case, if they believe they’re entitled to an inheritance from you, they’ll need to challenge the court’s decision.
It may also mean loved ones must pay a higher share of inheritance tax on any property.
What should your will include for your child?
· Writing joint willsIt’s a good idea to make joint wills for both parents. Mirror wills let you and your partner write almost identical wills that usually name each other as the sole beneficiary. This way, whatever happens to one parent, you know your baby is in safe hands.
As part of any joint will – which are easier and cheaper to make because it requires less legal time – you should name your child (or the child’s guardian) as the second beneficiary, just in case anything happens to both parents. Chat to a legal advisor for the best way to do this.
· Appoint a guardianYour will lets you nominate a guardian, someone who will care for your child if both parents pass away before the child is 18 years old.
Without appointing a guardian in your will, the state can choose who takes care of your child.
Your chosen guardian should, at minimum, be:
· Financially stable
It’s common for relatives to take on the role – don’t underestimate how huge a responsibility this is. Always talk to the potential guardian first, to make sure they understand what’s required of them and they’re happy to undertake the role.
For added security, add a substitute guardian to your will, just in case your first choice can’t or won’t act as guardian. Once a child reaches 18 years, the guardianship will automatically cease.
· Set the inheritance ageYou can choose at what age your child can receive their inheritance.
By law, children can’t inherit a gift in a will – they can only inherit once they’re 18 years or over. Without instructions in the will (or even if there’s no will), this is when your children inherit. Until that time, their inheritance is held in a trust.
However, you may decide this is too young for a full inheritance. In this case, increase the age at which they can receive anything. This is commonly 21 or 25 years old, but it’s entirely up to you and what’s best for your child.
· Appoint your child’s trusteesThough they may not be able to inherit when they’re so small (and just a little bit cute), a trust helps you give your child financial stability for the future. If they’re underage, their inheritance is automatically placed in a trust, and will need to be properly managed by a trustee.
In your will, appoint a trustee – but ideally, two or three – to manage this trust with your child’s best interests at heart.
Pick someone who is:
· Financially independent
· Financially minded
Ultimately, it should be someone you trust implicitly not to ‘cook the books’ with your child’s inheritance. Don’t worry, there are plenty of checks and balances to make sure this doesn’t happen.
When there’s no will, any inheritance due to those under 18 is managed by the estate administrator.
· Interim financial arrangementsA trust may give your child financial stability once they come of age, but what about in the meantime?
This is where you’ll need to make arrangements with your trust so that your child has money for, say, clothes or books for school. If your guardian is looking after your child, you’ll also be able to make sure they have enough money to care for them.
It can get a bit complicated when dealing with this aspect of writing a will, so you may want to speak to a solicitor about the best way to make interim financial arrangements for your family.
· Other possessionsMaking a will isn’t all about money-money-money. When thinking about what to include in your will for your child, don’t forget all those possessions that hold real sentimental value to you and your family. The heirlooms that have been passed down father to son, mother to daughter (and every other combination therein).
What do you want to pass on? What possessions will your family remember you by?
Making a will for your new family
Starting a family is exciting moment – it doesn’t get any better than this. Make sure you and your loved ones are ready for whatever the future holds.
The Law Superstore helps you find and compare solicitors and professional will-writers near you. Just a few quick questions and you can connect with the legal professional that’s best for you and your budget.
And if you already have a will, don’t forget to review it every five years or so, or when you inevitably move to a bigger house to grow your beautiful family.