Protecting your Children with a Will

Making a Will is something we all put off. But none of us knows what tomorrow will bring, and when it comes to looking after children, you really shouldn’t leave it to chance.

Why You Need To Protect Children With A Will

When you make a Will you can stipulate more than who gets what of your possessions.

In a Will, you’re able to name legal guardians for minor children as well as arranging for their financial support until they reach 18 and can legally inherit. Another consideration is how well children would cope should they inherit a sizeable sum at age 18. Some financial assistance and guidance is usually helpful, so a Will allows you to set up trusts and appoint trustees.

Protect Stepchildren

Lots of us have extended families that include stepchildren, and it’s easy to forget (or never be aware) that the law sees them through different eyes from ours. Without a Will, you’ll be unable to leave anything to your stepchildren as the rules of intestacy (when you die without a Will) only take into account blood relations or adopted children. If you wish to include stepchildren, you need to name them. It’s worth noting that simply stating that you wish to leave assets ‘to my children’ will also exclude stepchildren. You need to call them by name.

Getting the Document Written

There are three popular ways to tackle the actual writing of the document once you’ve decided how to divide your possessions:

A DIY Template – You can pick these up off the High Street for very little money and whilst they are legal documents they do have a few dangers you should be aware of. Firstly, if you’re not very careful with wording you could introduce ambiguity, which will make it harder to carry out your wishes. Second, can you be sure you’ve properly addressed all the issues? Without legal training it’s hard to know just what to include and what to leave out. If this is your preferred option, get the document checked by a legal professional.

A Will Writing Service – These are easy to find online but they’re not regulated so there are few safeguards if things go wrong. If you choose a Will writing service, make sure it has membership to the Institute of Professional Will Writers, which means the service will have a code of practice approved by the Trading Standards Institute.

Ask Your Solicitor – this is by far the safest and most recommended way of writing a Will. If you don’t know one personally or can’t get a recommendation from friends, the Law Society website can help through their ‘find a solicitor’ service.

Keeping Your Will Safe, and Up To Date

Wills are precious documents with the power to determine the future of others, particularly children. They should be stored safely with a bank, a solicitor, a Wills storage company, or the Probate Service. If you like, you can also keep it at home. Wherever you choose, make sure your family and legal representatives know where to find it.

Family life and circumstances change over time, so a Will should be updated to reflect those changes every few years. Instances that might prompt a change include marriages or births, divorces or major purchases such as property or other investments. Any changes to a Will are made with a codicil, which must be witnessed and signed just as the original document was. You can add as many codicils as you wish.

None of us likes to think about making a Will, but if the worst should happen and you don’t have one, the state will decide how your possessions are divided, and also decide who looks after your children. The only way to make sure your children are provided for as you wish is to set it out in a Will.

Drew writes for Unicef UK – see their website for more information about wills and legacies.