Sunday 31 May 2015

A Procrastinating Parent’s Guide To Wills

With kids around you have to prioritise your procrastination. Some things you can safely put off, indulging in the luxury of ‘tomorrow’. Others - really anything that’s kid related - you know you just need to get on with.

In the clamour of the needs of ‘now’, putting into place solutions for something that might happen in the far distant future is a prime candidate for the ‘tomorrow’ pile.

Making a Will definitely falls into that category. In fact, the Law Society reported that in 2014 only 36% of adults in Britain said they’d written their Wills. That leaves a whopping 64% of us who are leaving the future security of our loved ones to chance.

Look After the Children
Childcare extends into every nook and cranny of a parent’s life. We’re either doing practical things to care for them, or we’re fretting that they’re okay.

Who would take on that 24-hour role should the worst happen?

By making a Will you can set in stone exactly who cares for your children under 18 if you’re not around any more. With a Will, you can name guardians and make financial provision for their upbringing.

Other considerations include how children would cope if they were to suddenly inherit a sizeable chunk when they reach 18. Some would manage responsibly, while others would need help and guidance. With a Will, you can set up a trust to safeguard their inheritance and protect their interests.

Make Provision for Stepchildren
A generation or so ago, family arrangements were simple compared to the complex, extended families many of us have today. Parents often care equally for stepchildren as well as biological children, but the law doesn’t recognise this.

In law, stepchildren have no right to inheritance of your estate.

Should you die intestate (meaning without a Will) only your biological children will inherit. If you want to provide for the stepchildren under your care, you need to name them in a Will otherwise they will be bypassed completely.

For those with partners who have children of their own, you may wish to provide for your partner but safeguard the future of your own children. In this case you need to make provision in your Will to that effect - namely that your partner inherits but your assets pass to your own children rather than your partner’s when they in turn pass on.

As you can see, extended families complicate matters. The only way to make sure your wishes are heard and carried out is to write them in a Will.

Don’t Forget Your Digital Estate
People used to keep diaries. These days we keep social media accounts. What happens to those accounts when you die?

Think of the all the records of family highs and lows, the big times and those small, precious moments, with cherished comments and additions from friends and family members.

Think of all the photos of the kids growing up, anecdotes about what they said and did, their parties, first days at school, fun holidays or just days in the park - all meticulously set down in date order.

It’s far too precious a possession to lose. It’s a priceless, unique family heirloom you can never replace.

Make sure your digital estate is mentioned in your Will, with clear instructions for who takes ownership of those accounts.

How to Write Your Will

There are a few ways:
  • Solicitors are by far the safest way. A good solicitor with experience in Will writing can guide you through all you need to consider and point out things you may not have thought of.
  • Will Writing Services are online everywhere and they’re unregulated by the Law Society so be careful. Make sure you use one that is a member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers (look for their logo), and that includes a legal checking service to make sure everything is in order. 
  • DIY kits and templates from High Street shops are easily obtained. Make sure you get yours checked by a professional if you go this route. It’s easy to make mistakes that make your wishes difficult or impossible to carry out.
Many people believe their estate will automatically go to those nearest to them but, sadly, it’s not always true. Every year, loved ones miss out, get passed over and face hardship and upset.

Yet making a Will is easy. It’s one of those things we need to put on the ‘now’ pile, and take charge of what happens tomorrow.

Drew writes for Unicef UK. For more information about leaving a legacy in your will, please see their website

Please note I have not received any compensation for this post, I am just publishing as the information is useful and I am very happy to support Unicef.
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