When you have young children, life is about as full and busy as it can get. There’s always something new: great milestones, exciting developments and lots of laughter. It feels like life is bursting at the seams, and the last thing on your mind is making a Will. But spare a minute to consider what would happen to the kids should the unthinkable happen. Life is precious, and the best parenting gift you can give a child is future security.
Here are five steps that help you start thinking about making a Will:
Consider The Reasons
Many people assume their estate and possessions will go to their nearest and dearest, but this often isn’t the case.
For instance, there is no provision in inheritance law for unmarried couples. You may assume that your unmarried partner will inherit your share of property or your personal possessions but, without a Will they will pass to your nearest blood relation.
Similarly, step children are not included in inheriting from your estate unless you name them in your Will. In today’s extended families, this point of law can cause upset and complication for those who are not aware. You may care for your partner’s children as though they were your own, but the law won’t recognise your feelings. The only way to provide for them is to write them into a Will.
A Will also allows you to appoint guardians for children under 18, set up trust funds that help pay for their support while they need it, and manage their inheritance when they come of age.
Start with an Inventory
Take stock of all you own and consider how you’ll divide your estate. Don’t forget your digital property, which could include social media accounts that often contain long records of photos and events. These might have a monetary value or simply be very important to family members.
Also, remember life assurance policies, insurances and pensions. Your estate probably extends further than you first imagine.
Decide on Your Will Writing Method
There are several ways to draw up a Will.
You can get a template from High Street shops and do it yourself. This has a few pitfalls, including accidental errors that could make carrying out your wishes difficult at best or impossible at worst.
Use a Will writing service. There are lots online, although be aware that these are not regulated. If you do choose such a service, make sure they include checking by a legal professional and belong to the Institute of Professional Will Writers.
The third and best option is to use a solicitor. They can advise on what to include in your Will, and point out any omissions along with making suggestions you may not have thought of.
Witnesses and Executors
Your Will must be witnessed by two people who are not included or mentioned in the Will itself. Even the smallest bequest is not allowed – such as a piece of jewellery or a photo album.
You must also appoint an executor, who will make sure the terms of your Will are carried out according to your wishes. The job of the executor is more complex than simply witnessing a signature, especially in probate matters or more complicated situations where children are concerned. You can ask the solicitor who writes your Will to act as executor (together with a friend or family member if you wish), and this may be your best bet rather than putting friends in a possibly awkward or stressful situation.
If you do decide to have a friend as executor, discuss it with them beforehand to make sure they’re willing and understand what’s involved. If you would like to learn more about the role of an executor, you can take a look at this useful guide that explains what you need to do if you are made the executor of a will.
Store Your Will Safely and Keep it Updated
You can keep your Will at home or ask a solicitor to keep it safely for you. Wherever you store it, make sure everyone knows where to find it. Specialised online services such as those offered by Wills & Assets provide safe keeping of your Will’s location.
It’s also important to keep a Will updated when circumstances change, and to do a review every three to five years. Changes that might affect your Will include births, marriages, divorces or deaths, but also if property is bought or sold.
You don’t need a whole new Will to make changes to an existing one. Instead, a codicil is attached to the Will that lists the changes you wish to make, and you may add as many as you like over the years.
Writing a Will isn’t a subject anyone relishes, and we all think there’s plenty of time. That might be true, but having a Will means you can rest easy, knowing you’ve done all you can to safeguard your children’s future no matter what happens to you.