Life never feels more alive than when there are small children around. With all the bustling activity that fills every day, it’s certainly not a time when most parents think about making a Will.
There’s plenty of time, right? No need to think about that unpleasantry just yet.
Yet it’s when life is at its fullest that we really ought to think a bit about how we’ll provide for the future. Making a Will ought to walk hand in hand with putting a bit aside for University or the pension pot.
It’s not that hard or time consuming to make a Will, so here are three tips on how and why it’s important:
Tip 1 – The Rules of Intestacy (Not Having A Will)
Last year the Law Society found that 23% of us believe our possessions and estate will automatically go to family whether we make a Will or not.
How we define family, though, doesn’t always match up with the ways the law defines family. For instance:
Stepchildren are naturally considered family by those who care for them. But under the law, stepchildren are not included in inheritances unless they are mentioned by name in a Will. If you have stepchildren and want to provide for them when you’re gone, you need a Will or they get left out.
Unmarried partners don’t do well under intestacy rules. If you don’t make a Will, your unmarried partner is not entitled to inherit your estate. There is no such thing as common law protection for unmarried partners, regardless of the length of time you’ve been together. This is contrary to popular belief, but intestacy rules state unmarried partners must be mentioned in a Will in order to inherit.
Minor children won’t have access to their inheritance from your estate until they reach 18. A Will allows you to name their guardian – the person who will care for them from day to day – and to make provision for their financial support. You can also set up trusts to help them manage their inheritance when they reach 18 if you think this would help.
Tip 2 – Choosing Executors and Witnesses
Your Will must be witnessed by two people who are not mentioned in the Will. Often this is overlooked, but even the smallest bequest will disqualify the witness.
Executors can be anyone, but when choosing bear in mind the level of complexity and responsibility the position carries. For instance, your executor must see to it that your wishes are carried out properly. These can be quite complex if a trust for children or complicated estate administration is involved, so you might be better off having a solicitor act as executor.
If you decide to nominate a friend or family member as executor, make sure you talk it over with them first so they understand what they’ll need to do.
Tip 3 – Keep Your Will Up To Date
Nothing in life stays the same, so Wills should be revised from time to time and changes made if necessary. What kind of changes? Instances include:
Births in the family
Financial changes (such as buying a house or making a new investment)
You don’t need a whole new Will. The way to make changes to an existing Will is to add a codicil. This is a separate document that’s attached to the original, and takes precedence over what was first written.
You can add as many codicils as you like over the course of your lifetime, but each needs to be signed and witnessed just as the original Will was.
Don’t leave it till the last minute. Apparently the actor Peter Sellers did just that, leaving most of his multi-million pound estate to his estranged wife, with his children getting just £500 each. He tried, and failed, to change this on the day he died.
Making a Will is the furthest thing from your mind in the midst of an energetic lifestyle. Especially one with kids who keep you alive and on your toes. But it’s one of the most thoughtful gifts you can give – a future that’s secure, with provision no matter what happens.
It’s easy to put off making a Will, but we really shouldn’t.
This is a Charity Guest Post: Drew writes for Unicef UK. For more information about leaving a legacy in your will, please see their website.
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