Having children can put a whole new perspective on making a will. This month, Chaanah discusses how to protect their future…
We’ve just had our second child. Can our existing wills be updated or do we need to start from scratch?
You need to check the wording in your existing wills carefully, as they may have been drafted to take account of future children. They may not name your first child, but refer instead to a ‘descendant,’ ‘issue,’ or ‘children.’
You cannot amend a will after it has been signed and witnessed, so the only way to make a change is to include an official alteration, known as a codicil. If you simply want to include another child, this may be a viable and cheaper option than starting again. It must, however, be signed and witnessed in the same way your will was.
I have a child with learning disabilities who will need help managing his finances as an adult. Can I nominate someone to do this, should anything happen to me?
Many parents of children with learning disabilities wish to leave them a legacy in their will, but in most cases, it is not the best approach because:
- A legacy left directly to your child might jeopardise access to state and local authority funding, if it is means tested. This could leave them without the key benefits upon which they depend.
- Some individuals with learning disabilities lack the maturity to manage an inheritance and are likely to be vulnerable to outside influences.
- If your child is considered incapable of managing their inheritance, the Court of Protection may appoint someone to look after his money and property. You will have no say over who this is.
Some clients decide a better option is to leave their child out of their will, with the intention that another family member – to whom they bequeath their estate – will look after them. This can have unexpected consequences, as there is no certainty the relative will do as you wish. Plus, excluding a dependent from your will opens it up to a dispute.
A more effective way to provide for a child with learning disabilities or other special needs is to set up a discretionary trust. It avoids many of the problems associated with leaving a direct legacy and allows you to choose who will be in charge of the funds. Those individuals can then, with a letter of guidance from you, deal with the assets in the most effective manner.
I am a single parent with two young boys. How should my will be structured?
Assuming you wish your children to benefit from your entire estate, a simple approach would be to leave everything divided equally between the two of them.
Other provisions you need to consider in your will are who your executors will be – these individuals will manage your estate and would, if necessary, look after the boys’ money until they turn 18.
To find out more about any of the issues discussed here, don’t hesitate to contact me on (0114) 218 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.