Lucy Langley from Bath Wills explains why it is sensible for all parents to have a will
There can be a lot of admin when you are a parent. From filling in your baby’s red book to making school applications on time, its totally understandable that getting your wills done can slip to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.
However, if you have young children it is sensible to make sure that everything is clear and watertight for those left behind in the (hopefully unlikely) event neither parent is around. I often find that parents frequently say how much they appreciate the peace of mind of having done their wills – particularly when going on their first child free trip or weekend away.
Having a will in place can clarify a number of important areas.
Guardians Who would you choose to look after your children if you both died? Are there matters that you would want the guardians to take into account, such as schooling or ensuring ongoing contact with family members? These can be set out in a letter of wishes so the guardians are clear as to what your thoughts are on things that really matter to you.
Trusts Who would look after your house/assets if your children were too young to inherit outright? You can appoint your chosen trustees to safeguard your estate for your children by establishing a properly managed trust to protect your assets, whilst ensuring that the guardians are properly funded as the children grow up.
Age of inheritance Without a will children inherit outright at 18 – for many parents the prospect of giving an 18 year old their house is scarier than any Halloween trick your kids may come up with… In my experience, most parents use their wills to push the age of outright inheritance back to 21 or older.
Substitutes Many clients struggle to choose who to appoint as guardians and trustees. You can appoint substitutes, so appoint one person, but provide so that if they are unable or unwilling to act, you name someone else to step in.
Remarriage Many people don’t realise that getting married automatically invalidates a will (unless a will is made in contemplation of a particular marriage to a named person). There are types of will that enable you to leave your share of the estate to your spouse or partner during his or her lifetime but ensuring that your share passes to your children on the second death, whether your partner remarries or not.
Beneficiaries Unless you are certain that the current intestacy rules (rules that determine who gets what if you die without a will) accord with your wishes, a will is the only way of making sure that who you want to inherit, inherits.
Cohabitees The intestacy rules still do not recognise co-habitees, so if you are unmarried it is even more important to get your will done.
Inheritance tax If you leave your estate to your spouse, it is inheritance tax free. Without a will, if it is a larger estate the intestacy rules may mean a share of the estate goes directly to the children, which is potentially taxable.
A Co-operative Legal Services review in 2015 suggested that poorly drafted or ineffective DIY wills are to blame for a prolonged probate ordeal for 38,000 families a year. With the average estate in the UK standing at £160,000, this could equate to as much as £16,000 worth of probate fees.
Local solicitors can help, or if you would like a home visit let me know. I am a Bath parent, former city solicitor and now independent will writer (trading standards approved). I can visit you after the children are in bed or at weekends, and have been helping Bath families with their wills for four years.