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Will writing for new parents

By Tom Wilson

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Will writing for new parents

Find out why it's important to write a will when you have young children and explore your options, including will solicitors and online will writing services.

It might be the last thing on your mind as you adapt to your busy new life as a parent, but making a will is part of your responsibility to your children. 

Making time to arrange your will is really important. Having a well-thought-out will in place will provide you with peace of mind and reassurance about your children's future. 

You can find more advice on writing a will online, by visiting the Which? Wills website. But first, get to grips with what you need to put into a will if you're a parent. Please note, this advice below applies to only to people in England and Wales. 

Why do you need a will?

If you die without a will, it could lead to a lot of uncertainty and financial worry for your family and dependents. It also means that your wishes may not be taken in to account when it comes to passing on your estate and guardianship of your children. The way your estate will be divided could be decided by a complex set of laws called intestacy rules.

By writing a will you can make sure that if you or your partner were to die, your estate would be divided up in the way you wanted it to be. Making a will also allows you to appoint guardians for your children -  if you don't do this, your Local Authority or court may be left to decide who should look after your children.  

If you don't have a will...

  • your spouse, cohabitee, partner or civil partner won't automatically inherit everything
  • if you are not married to your partner, they won't inherit anything
  • your step children won't inherit anything.

Find out more: Intestacy - what happens when you die without a will

How to write your first will

When it comes to making your will you have a number of options. Here we explain the pros and cons of each:

Writing your own will

You do have the choice of writing your own will. Many people manage to successfully write their own will without legal assistance, but there is a chance you could make a mistake. If you decided to do this, be sure that the final copy is signed and witnessed.

  • Pros: Cheaper option, doesn't require professional advice
  • Cons: Higher chance of making a mistake

Using a solicitor

If you use a solicitor, you'll be able to discuss your preferences with them and they will also be able to store your will for you. A solicitor will be qualified and regulated. Solicitors must also carry indemnity insurance and they will retain a 'will file' that may be referred to if the will is subject to a challenge - this is particularly important if the will disinherits someone who expects to inherit or there is any issue over capacity or undue influence.

  • Pros: You will get advice from a qualified expert, solicitors are well-equipped for challenges to a will
  • Cons: More expensive

Will-writing company

These offer an alternative to using a solicitor, but will writers do not have to be qualified. If you decide to use a will-writing company, ensure they are part of a recognised and professional body with a code of practice.

  • Pros: Can be cheaper than using a solicitor
  • Cons: Will writers are not necessarily qualified

Online will-writing services

You might find that using an online will-writing service is a quicker and more convenient option. It's worth clarifying how qualified the company is to give you legal guidance before you hand over any cash. 

Which? Wills offers you a straightforward and time-efficient solution to putting your affairs in order. You can write a single will for £89 and a will for you and your partner for £149. Your online wills questionnaire will be checked thoroughly by our will experts, who will then send it to you with full instructions on how to get your will signed and witnessed.   

  • Pros: Can be quicker and convenient
  • Cons: You need to choose a company with good credentials or you may not be getting qualified advice

Writing the best will for your children 

1. Appointing a guardian

Think carefully about who you would appoint as a guardian in the event that you and your partner were to die. You should know that the appointment of a guardian automatically ends when your children reach the age of 18.

2. Cost of bringing up your children 

Think about how you could make arrangements to cover the expenses of bringing up your children in the event of your death. 

3. Assets written in trust 

Remember that certain assets, such as pension benefits, life insurance policies and some investments, are usually written in trust. This means that on your death these assets pass to the beneficiaries of the trust and do not pass under the terms of your will. If you want to change the beneficiaries, you will need to contact each provider of your pension, life insurance and investments separately.    

4. Trust beneficiaries 

Make sure you factor in the money that the trust beneficiaries will receive when writing your will. For example, if a large policy is written in trust for your partner, they may not need a large legacy from your will as well.

5. Inheritance 

Consider at what age you want your children to benefit from your will. Unless the will says otherwise, they will automatically inherit at 18. You might think 18 is too young an age to expect your children to be financially responsible and can set a higher age if you wish.   

6. Inheritance under 18 

Before your child inherits at the age of 18 (or any later age stated in your will), the inheritance is held on trust. This means that the people you have appointed in your will as Trustees will hold the inheritance for the benefit of your children on whatever terms you set out in the will.

7. Providing for your step children 

You should consider providing for your step children. They won’t automatically benefit from your will unless you specifically include them.

8. Providing for your family 

Think about how you will balance the competing needs of all members of your family after your death. You need to feel confident that your estate will provide for your partner, children, step children and any other people or organisations that you wish to benefit.

9.  Marrying or entering into civil partnership 

If you are considering marrying or entering into a civil partnership, you should be aware that any existing will is automatically revoked unless it states that this will not be the case. You can include a clause in your will stating that you anticipate marrying your named fiancé(e) and that the will is to be effective both before and after your marriage.

  • Last updated: January 2017
  • Updated by: Tom Wilson
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