Why do parents need a will?
Making a will might be the last thing on your mind as you adapt to your busy new life as a parent, but it's part of your responsibility to your children.
If you die without a will, it could lead to uncertainty and financial worry for your family and dependents.
Below, we explain why you need a will and what it needs to include.
- Are you making a will? Which Wills? can help you do-it-yourself, or create one on your behalf - visit Which Wills to find out more.
What happens to your family without a will?
Without a will, your estate will be divided according to a complex set of laws called intestacy rules, with a court deciding how to apply them to your estate. By writing a will, you can make sure that if you or your partner were to die, your family will be provided for and your estate will be divided the way you plan for it to be.
But it’s not all about money - making a will also allows you to appoint guardians for your children. If these plans aren’t outlined in a will, your Local Authority or the courts 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 children's guardianship may be decided by a local authority or court
- your step-children won't inherit anything.
How to write your first will
When it comes to making your will you have a number of options - including writing your own will, using a solicitor or using a will-writing company.
You can find out more in our guide on how to make a will.
Writing the best will for your children
Find out what you need to include in a will for your children.
1. Appoint a guardian for your children
Think carefully about who you would appoint as a guardian in the event that you, or you and your partner were to die.
If you don't choose a guardian, the local authorities will be charged with deciding - and while they often preference immediate family, this is not automatic.
Keep in mind that the appointment of a guardian automatically ends when your children reach the age of 18.
2. Set out a plan for your child's finances
Think about how you could make arrangements to cover the expenses of bringing up your children in the event of your death. How can your estate cover these costs?
In your will, think about balancing 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.
3. Provide for your step-children and other dependents
If you have step-children, they will not automatically inherit from your estate unless you specifically include them in your will - so consider making arrangements in your will to meet their financial needs.
This may also be the case for other children you care for - like foster children - as well as dependent adults.
4. Revise beneficiaries from trusts, pensions or insurance
If you have a life insurance policy, a pension scheme or other assets held in trust, these will not be passed down within your will.
If you want your children to be inherit these financial products, you'll need to contact each provider and nominate your children as your beneficiaries.
5. Appoint trustees for your child's inheritance
If you die before the age your children can inherit, their assets will need to be held in trust.
To manage that trust, you need to nominate a trusted person to manage the trust. Think carefully about how the best person would be to safeguard your children's assets and help plan for their future.
6. Decide on the age of inheritance
Consider at what age you want your children to receive full control of their inheritance.
Unless the will says otherwise, they will automatically receive access to their assets at 18.
Before this age, your children can still benefit from their inheritance, but will not be able to manage them personally - the assets will be held on trust, and managed by a trustee to benefit your child.
So, for example, the child may receive an allowance from a cash fund, but will not be able to withdraw money without the trustee's consent.
You might think 18 is too young an age to expect your children to be financially responsible. If so, you can set a higher age if you wish or put conditions on their access.
7. Consider trust beneficiary pay-outs
If a partner or other beneficiary will receive a large pay out in the event of your death - for example, from your life insurance policy -they may not need a large legacy from your will too.
This could free up further assets you can leave for your dependents.
Think carefully about the arrangements in place for all the members of your family and how they will be protected.
8. Make a new will if you marry or enter into a civil partnership
When you marry or enter into a civil partnership, any existing will is automatically revoked. So after your marriage, you should execute a new will to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Alternatively, if you're planning to marry soon, you can include a clause in your will stating that you anticipate marrying your (named) fiancé and that the will is to be effective both before and after your marriage.