By Michelle Leggett
We all want the best for our children; health, happiness, a good education and financial security. But what other steps should you be taking now to protect their future, particularly when you are no longer around to do so? The importance of a having a carefully thought out and professionally drafted Will should not be underestimated.
What happens if you die without making a Will?
If you die intestate (without a valid Will in place), your estate will be distributed in accordance with the Intestacy Rules which are unlikely to reflect your wishes nor the reasonable expectations of those who have been bereaved. For example:
If you are married or in a civil partnership, do not automatically assume that everything passes to the survivor. Depending on the size of your estate, your assets could be split between the survivor and the children.
The Intestacy Rules do not make any provision for the survivor at all, unless you are married or in a civil partnership. The law simply does not recognise a ‘common law spouse’, and so if you are cohabiting, the survivor may not receive anything on your death. This can leave the survivor in the difficult position of having to bring a claim for financial provision against his or her own children or step-children.
Why make a Will?
There are other strong reasons for putting your Will in place:
Appoint guardians for your children
You get to choose the person(s) to be the legal guardians of your infant children (those under 18), rather than relying on those left behind to decide for themselves or take the matter to the family courts to determine. The legal guardians acquire parental responsibility and step into your shoes as decision makers, making decisions such as where the children should live, whom they should have contact with and where they should attend school.
Make appropriate provision for your children
You can ensure that your children’s inheritance is looked after, rather than frittered away, by delaying their age of entitlement beyond 18 years and appointing people you trust to manage the trust fund until they are old enough to take responsibility.
Providing for children from a previous relationship
With an increase in remarriage, it is important to ensure that suitable provision is made for children from previous relationships (and former spouses) avoiding the cost and emotional trauma of court proceedings. The use of trusts can ensure that spouses and children from both marriages are financially supported.
Providing for children with additional needs
If you are providing for children with additional needs, then Will trusts can be good vehicles for making assets available to help individuals without prejudicing their right to means tested state support. Protective trusts can also assist if your children are particularly vulnerable, for example if they have a drug or alcohol problem, be in a relationship that is breaking down or just not be capable of managing the funds sensibly.
Making a Will - how TWM can help
Although it can be a difficult topic to talk about, taking the time now to organise your affairs for when you are no longer around, can make all the difference to your children. At TWM Solicitors, we recognise that everyone’s families and financial circumstances are different, and we pride ourselves on providing a clear and concise explanation of the available options. If you would like to explore this further, then please contact Michelle Leggett at our Cranleigh office on 01483 542276 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.