It is awful to think about your children being left without you, but it is also important to prepare for every eventuality. Whether your children are below, or above the age of 18, there are benefits to having a Will no matter what age they are. For younger children a Will not only allows you to set out a guardian, should the unthinkable happen and both parents die, but also lay out financial provisions for them for the present and the future. If your children are adults it is still important to have a Will as it eases the burden on them and makes it a lot simpler in terms of inheritance laws if your wishes are there for them to follow.
What happens if you are unmarried with children?
In the unfortunate event of your death, should you be unmarried with children, not having a Will can complicate matters. No Will in such a situation may mean that your partner does not have enough money to bring up the children, as he/she will not automatically inherit as a married or civil partner would. They may also not be allowed to remain in your home if it is solely in your name, which would result in further upheaval for the children. In such a situation it is mutually beneficial for all if you have a Will in place that clearly lays down your wishes for your unmarried partner.
Choosing a guardian
Having a Will in place when you have children is important as it allows you to choose a guardian for your children whom you love and trust. Without a Will this might not be the case.
A Will allows you to set in place who you wish to look after your children, but there are some things you should consider when making the decision on who should be guardian:
The age of the guardian - will they be around long enough to support your children?
The values and parenting skills of the guardian - do they match yours?
Their ability to offer long term support and care
The financial situation of the guardian - will they be able to support your children?
The location of the guardian - will your children have to be uprooted?
These are all choices that are personal to you, but they are important to consider. You can choose to appoint a single guardian, or a couple as guardians, if you know of a suitable pair.
You can also choose for this same person, or another you trust, to be your designated property guardian, or Trustee, who will manage your money on your children’s behalf until they reach the age of 18 (or an age you choose). It is up to you whether you wish for the same person to be both the property and personal guardian for your children.
Court appointed choice
If you do not have a Will, or your Will does not include guardianship orders, then the courts will appoint a guardian for you. This may not necessarily be the same choice that you would have made, so it is important for you to clearly state your wishes while you are able to.
Guardians are likely to face considerable expense in bringing up your children, and as such it is important to have financial provisions in place. This can be arranged in your Will, but can also be set up in a Trust, where you will appoint a Trustee. It is advisable that this Trustee is not the same as your personal guardian, or related to them. Someone such as a solicitor or accountant may be more suitable. This helps protect against conflicts of interest and preserves objectivity. It also gives some support to the guardians who will most likely already have enough to sort out. Read more about trusts.
It is worth bearing in mind that you must have ‘parental responsibility’ for the children in order to appoint a guardian for them.
You can check whether you have legal parental responsibility by births registered on the following website:
What if you have specific requests?
A Will allows you to specify any requests you may have for your children, such as certain possessions you wish for them to individually receive, or a certain age they must be to inherit. If you do not specify this in a Will, your children will automatically inherit at age 18, which you may feel is too young, or even too old.
If you don’t wish there to be an equal split between your children, (for example if you are estranged from one or more of them) then you will need a Will in order to specify this, otherwise they shall all benefit equally.
If you are married, all of your belongings automatically go to your spouse, rather than your children. If you do not wish for this to be the case, it’s important to state this within a Will.
First4Lawyers are here to help, we can provide you with all the information and help you need for creating a Will. Contact one of our specialist solicitors today on 0800 567 7866
Note: First4lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4lawyers’ online information alone. *All details and pricing correct at time of last update. First4Lawyers and their partners are not tax advisors and we recommend you seek appropriate independent financial advice before making any decisions that relate to tax and property.