*This is a collaborative guest post
Have you made a Will? According to statistics from the Law Society, if you haven’t then you’re amongst the majority. Only around 36% of us have written our Wills. Whilst no one relishes the thought of giving serious consideration to what happens to loved ones should the worst happen, the consequences of not making a will can be far reaching.
Most people assume their estate will automatically go to their nearest and dearest. But if you don’t spell out in a Will how you’d like your estate divided, those you want to provide for can be left high and dry.
This is of particular importance for parents, especially those with stepchildren or those in non-married relationships, or where there are children from previous relationships.
Without a Will, there is a strict ‘pecking order’ set down in law that determines how your money and estate is divided:
- First priority is given to blood-related children or their descendants
- Next in line are your parents
- Then brothers and sisters or their children
- Further down the line come grandparents, aunts and uncles and more distant relatives
- If you have no living relatives from that list, your estate goes to the Crown.
As you can see, there are glaring omissions that affect many modern family arrangements.
Regardless of how long you’ve been with a partner, if you’re not married they get nothing on your passing. In order to provide for non-married partners you should name them in a Will. Without a Will, your estate would pass to your blood-related children rather than your partner, which could cause problems especially if the children are under 18 and therefore too young to manage their inheritance.
Many families these days include stepchildren. Under current laws, stepchildren have no right of inheritance unless you make a Will and specifically include them. You can avoid stepchildren being denied a share of your estate by simply naming them in your Will along with your blood-related children.
Making a Will allows single parents to choose who would take over the legal guardianship of their children whilst the children are still under 18. This can get complicated where the other parent plays no part in the child’s upbringing, but you should still try to talk over your wishes with the other parent and come to an agreement about who will care for them should you pass away before they reach 18.
Another aspect to consider, and which you can make arrangements for in a Will, is how children will be provided for when they inherit your estate. Would they, for instance, be able to cope with a sudden inheritance when they reach 18 or would you be better advised to set up a trust?
Writing a Will
Although it’s possible to write a Will yourself, with the help of a template available on the High Street or through online Will writers, it’s important to realise that Will writing is not regulated. For reliable advice, and to be sure there are no errors that could make your Will invalid, it’s best to go to a solicitor. If you choose an online Will writing service, make sure they do legal checking and are registered with the Institute of Professional Will Writers.
If you have a philanthropic streak, making a Will also gives you the opportunity to leave a gift to charity. Just be sure to double check the name and include the charity’s registered number and their address since a few have similar names.
We all want to provide as best we can for our partners and children. Under current laws, the only way to be sure your estate goes to those closest to you is to make a Will and be specific.
Drew writes for Unicef UK. For more information on leaving a legacy, see their website.