Writing the best will for your children
Appoint a guardian
You should reflect on who you would want to look after the children if you or your partner were to die. Failure to pick a guardian will result in your local authority deciding. And whilst they tend to prefer immediate family, this does not automatically happen.
The appointment of a guardian ends automatically when your children reach 18. Most people usually nominate more than one guardian, or at least a substitute, in case the first is unwilling or unable to take on the role. A brief word about age — whilst it may be an excellent idea to make the children’s grandparents their guardians, they may not be able to take on the role (as much as they would like to) if their increasing years prevent it.
As stated above, godparents do not have any legal rights. If you wish godparents to look after your children if you die, you must name them as guardians in your will
Set out a plan for your children’s finances
Consider how you can make arrangements to cover the expenses of raising the children. We all know bringing up kids is an expensive game, so you should think about how your estate can cover these costs. When making a will, you should feel confident that you have done all you can to ensure your estate will provide for your partner, children, and any other people who may bring them up after your death.
Providing for step-children and other dependents
Step-children will not automatically inherit from your estate unless you make a specific provision for them in your will. This is also the case for other children you may care for, such as foster children, as well as any other adults that depend on you.
Trusts, pensions, or life insurance
If you have a pension scheme, life insurance policy, or any other type of asset held in trust, they will not automatically be passed down in a will. If you want your children to benefit from any of these assets, you will need to contact each provider individually and nominate your children as beneficiaries.
Decide on the age they will inherit
Unless your will states otherwise, your children will automatically receive access to their inheritance at 18 (although this is set at 17 in Scotland). Before this age, your children can still benefit from the estate but cannot manage it personally. The assets are held on trust and managed for the benefit of your children by a trustee.
For example, your child may receive an allowance from a cash fund but cannot withdraw money without the consent of the trustee. You may think that 18 is too young to be financially responsible; if so, you can set a higher age or put conditions on access. Many people opt for 21, and some even older than that.
To manage a trust, you will need to nominate a person you trust to act as the trustee. You should choose someone you believe will be the best person to safeguard the children’s assets and help plan for their future because the trustee is in control of your children’s finances.
Choosing only one trustee is not a particularly good idea. This is because there is a risk that a person could not be around, which means that rules dictate who will be appointed. The rules give priority to family members, so there is a real chance the person who is chosen may not be who you would prefer.
Consider family heirlooms
You may wish to consider making specific legacies to ensure particular items are passed on to your children, rather than divided amongst other family members ad hoc.
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