Unfortunately over half of the UK population do not have a Will although it is a relatively straightforward and inexpensive process. Usually, parents know that they need to make a Will however they just don’t quite get around to it. It is important that you understand what would happen to your minor child or children if you were to die without making a Will. Most parents prefer to have peace of mind knowing that they have made the necessary arrangements in case the worst happens.
If you have a minor child or children (meaning under the age of 18) and neither parent has made a Will and you both die then your children are left exposed as far as their Guardian is concerned. Under the Children Act 1989 a parent (or person with parental responsibility) has the power to appoint a guardian. Both parents of a legitimate child have equal responsibility but in the case of an illegitimate child the mother has parental responsibility.
If you die without making a Will you have not legally provided for who your children will live with and who will care for them. This could cause a lot of upset, anguish and unnecessary disruption for your children who have just lost their parents. In these circumstances, your children are likely to go to a grandparent or a sibling which could also result in conflict.
If you make a Will and appoint a Guardian this can be avoided. Although it is not set in stone as that person could later decide they do not want to be the Guardian or they may no longer be fit to be a Guardian, it does give you the ability to detail your wishes and give weight to your wishes. It is always best to confirm that someone is willing to be a Guardian before you put his or her name down in your Will.
We would also recommend that you prepare a letter which accompanies your Will that offers guidance to your Guardians. Nobody knows your child like you do, and this letter would give you the opportunity to let your Guardians know what is important to you and them, and how you wish them to be raised.
The inheritance itself will follow the intestacy rules and your children will benefit from the estate if there is no surviving spouse or civil partner. If you have more than one child your children will benefit equally. You need to remember that if you have stepchildren and die without a Will those children will not automatically benefit. Your estate will go to your biological children or children you have adopted.
Your children will inherit at the age of 18 but if you think this is too young you can alter this to 21 or 25. Before the age of 18 (or any later age you may specify), the money will be put into a trust to be managed by the trustees appointed by the Will. As you would not have provided for who will take on this role your children may be left vulnerable and exposed as the trustee will control the assets in the trust.
In a Will you can ensure that you make financial provision for your children’s upkeep and education and appoint someone you trust to manage the assets on their behalf. You can also decide at what age they will inherit your estate.
It is important to consider making a Will and other estate planning elements such as trusts and inheritance tax so that your loved ones are safeguarded. By talking through your circumstances with an Inheritance Protection solicitor you know your estate will be left to who you want and your children will be protected.
If you would like to make your Will please read our Making a Will page or contact one of our team members below.