Now more than ever it’s becoming important to protect your children for whatever the future may bring. It’s become apparent over the past few months that people just don’t have wills, with main reasons being ‘Well I don’t have much to give’ or ‘I’m renting so there’s no point’ but what about your children, what happens if you don’t have a will and there’s an awful unexpected death? 

This is an issue very few like to discuss never mind consider for ourselves, however it is an unfortunate reality and one which we very much need to be aware of.  

The horrific coronavirus pandemic forced many to change their attitude to having a will and think more towards the future and the ‘what if..’ circumstances with an influx of concerned public panicking to ensure they had a will for the potential threat to their lives due to the crisis.  

We want to share with you what can happen if you don’t have a will and the effects it could have on your children. We’ll provide you with some advice on where you can go to gain a will and what you need to consider when writing one.  

Ideally a will should be in place before a child is born, this provides security for a family if a mother was to pass away during childbirth. The second you have children it’s so important to ensure the protection is there for the child, what if something happens to both of you? Where would your child go? Who would become their guardian? 

These are the types of questions that need answering before such a tragic situation occurs. Many believe a young death is an unlikely event, however it does happen, and your children need the protection for these shocking situations.  

Guardianship 

Think about the most disastrous situation that could happen in your family, imagine if you and your spouse were to die, where would the children go? In this situation you may have had a conversation with a sibling and decided that the children would go to their aunty and uncle to live, however, if this isn’t documented in a formal will and legal guardianship then your sibling has no right to become the legal guardian for the children. The maternal and paternal grandparents may both feel like they are better suited to become the legal guardians.  

In cases such as this it can end up in court with the family essentially fighting over the children. Now bear in mind, these children have already been through the trauma of their parents dying and now they have to go to court to find out where they will be placed. This can have a terrible long-term impact on the child and their mental wellbeing.  

If a child is of a reasonable age, around 12/13 then they will also have to attend court to speak to the judge, a judge will always take into account what the child wants. When a child is faced with this decision, they may not make the choice that you would have liked, they may not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, there is nothing worse than seeing a child having to pick between their family members. 

Your children could potentially be uprooted from their current lifestyle living at home by the beach in Worthing to live with a set of grandparents in Manchester for example, with none of their friends or family close by, having to move to a new school and making new friends after already going through the hardest time of their lives and one which many of us couldn’t even comprehend even at our ages. 

You may feel ‘that would never happen in my family’ however you would be surprised at the decisions that seemingly wonderful loving families make during times of disaster and distress. 

There can be other terrible situations e.g. if parents aren’t married and there is no will. In these cases, if the father was to die with no will the estate would be passed to the children leaving nothing for the mother. 

Also, if you are a single parent with no will, then the other parent may obtain guardianship of the child and they may not be a suitable person to have a child in their care.  

When you write a Will, you can include a guardianship clause. This clause can contain your wishes in who you would like your children to live with if the worst-case scenario was to occur.  

Trustees  

Trustees are also an important factor when writing your will. When you leave an estate, it is likely that you will pass this estate on to your children. If there is no will in place the estate will pass down to your children when they turn 18. 

Think about the situation, would you feel comfortable with your children inheriting a vast amount of money at the age of 18? You may not think the assets you currently own would amount to much, however taking into account, life insurances, pensions, property etc it can come to more than you think. 

Especially if your child has been traumatised at a young age, a child who is sensible at 14, may then lose their parents and let loose at 18 when they come into money, gaining it all in one go may not be the best option. In these cases, a trustee can be appointed. With the power of advancement, you can make the decision on when the child receives the money, for example, at the age of 25, but up until then the trustee can manage that money for the child. You can provide examples to the trustee in written documentation to allow for the money to be used at an earlier age if it’s something you’re happy for them to do, e.g. university, travelling etc. 

Expression of Wishes 

An expression of wishes is not a legally binding document however it is a great decision to write one for your children. This document enables you to share what you want for your children if you’re not able to be there to share it with family. In this document you can share the school you’d like your child to attend, the values you’d like your child to be brought up with and things that aren’t usually covered in a legal will. 

Life Insurance 

Life Insurance is also a main factor to consider for your children, especially if you do own your home, life insurance can pay your mortgage if you were to pass away. If you don’t have life insurance, then your mortgage would not be paid off and your children may also have to move out of the place they have classed as theirs for many years. 

The cost of a will tends to be the main detractor in people writing a suitable withstanding will, however, when you weigh up the small cost of a will with the experiences that may occur for your child it’s just a very small drop in the ocean. 

Death can impact a child’s life so much and ensuring you have these small things in place for their protection will provide you with piece of mind that they will be protected for years to come. 

Lucy Woods from Woods Legal has been a great support in the writing of this blog post, if you require any help or advice please do speak with Lucy and let her know that you heard about her from Worthing Mums and Dads. 

Lucy@woodslegal.co.uk 

01903411000 

www.woodslegal.co.uk