As January draws to a close and you have, I’m sure, spent the last month rearranging your knicker collection and replacing old bras (bra shopping! Such a fun job!), you may be looking for one more item to tick off your to-do list. In which case may I suggest, if you haven’t done so already, making a Will?
I had the most tremendous fun making a Will with Giles about ten years ago in which I ended up jokingly (not joking) saying things like “I will not allow those vile children from your second marriage get their hands on my collection of Japanese butterfly pictures!!!!!”
Anyway you are sensible sorts, I imagine you have already done this, if not, consider lovely Rebecca! Who is a long-time reader and set up her own Will-Writing service in order to work flexibly around her children.
Take it away, Rebecca!
If you have children, you no doubt spend a lot of time worrying about their wellbeing, probably feeding them organic food, arranging piano lessons and the like. What about the bigger picture, though? What if you died whilst they were still young? It’s crucial to provide for their future in that situation by making a Will. If you died, they would then at least have the benefit of you having carefully chosen legal guardians to look after them, and provided for their future, financially.
What are the perils of dying without a Will (intestate)?
A court would have to choose your children’s guardians.
Your children would automatically inherit at age 18. In your Will, you can delay this to age 21, 25 or later.
It’s a widely-held misconception that if your husband/wife outlives you, they will get everything. They will get the first £250,000, and the rest will be split 50% to your spouse, 50% to your children at age 18.
If you aren’t married, your partner won’t automatically inherit anything.
What if I died leaving everything to my husband, and then he remarried and left my money to his new wife and family instead of to our children?
You can prevent this by leaving your assets on a life interest trust for your husband, instead of leaving them to him outright. This will allow him to live in the house for his lifetime and to receive the income from your assets, whilst keeping your capital safe for your children (Just a bit of tax planning, darling <whistles>.)
What if one or both of us has children from a previous marriage?
To provide for two families, again, the usual solution is to set up a life interest trust in your Will that will allow you to carefully balance the needs of your second husband/wife with those of your children.
How can I provide for someone who’s disabled, has a drug/alcohol problem, or is just terrible with money?
In your Will, you can establish a discretionary trust for a class of beneficiaries, including the person in question. This allows your chosen trustees to keep the situation under review, and to benefit that person (or not) in future, as they think fit.
What if I’ve been left out of someone’s Will unfairly?
You can raise a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, although the caselaw hasn’t been going well for disappointed adult children in recent years. It’s probably easier just to be nice to your mother during her lifetime, which is what these cases tend to come down to!
How long will it take and how much is it?
The meeting with your legal adviser to talk through your instructions should only take about an hour, and making a Will should be affordable. For example, I charge £195 to make a simple Will for one person, or £325 for simple Wills for a couple. I can take instructions via Skype or FaceTime if you aren’t local.
Rebecca D’Arcy is a solicitor and runs Chiltern Wills www.chilternwills.com. To make an appointment ring 07544 091039 or email email@example.com
I work in a Wills-adjacent role, and should add that leaving 10% of your net estate to charity drops inheritance tax from 40% to 36%! It’s also just a nice thing to do (not necessarily 10% obviously) – let the charity/museum/gallery know you’ve done it, too! They’ll probably invite you to events forever…
But… how do you deal with choosing legal guardians if you both die??! That’s basically why we don’t have one. Who would look after the children?! We cannot agree. None of the options are what we’d like.
But Emily… it’s literally not going to happen. and if it did – you would have to die at the same time or very close together – whomever you chose would have plenty of cash to help them with the task and it wouldn’t be for very long and it’s better than them being turned over to the state…
We couldn’t work that out either – the solicitor advised we choose someone who we would trust to make the best decision for the kids at the time – somehow it felt easier to appoint someone for the decision than trying to foresee exactly how it would work.
Catherine Hordern says
Well timed! As you say, I have completed the knicker drawer, have started to review the home contents insurance (15 years out of date) and now must add this to the list of things to be achieved. Horribly aware of my own mortality these days.
As soon as I found out I was expecting my first child we drew up a will, and one which was future-proof for additional children. It is tough, but it’s worth thinking of who you would like to be your children’s guardians in the event of your death and having the ability to discuss it with those people, and think about financially providing for that scenario.
Sian West says
Was actually thinking about this and wasn’t sure who to ask for legal help (I’m just divorced), so thank you.
Great advice. We don’t have children so doesn’t apply. But plenty of sisters (3) which I shall be passing on the info. Actually had this conversation just about burial wishes with my friends recently. None had written down their what they want, especially my Greek friend who wanted to be buried in Greece but hadn’t told anybody! I compiled my funeral songs a long time ago ….
I have a school friend who has been getting drunk and tearfully telling us what she wants her funeral to be like, in great detail, through tears, for the almost 25+ years I’ve known her. Sometimes followed by karaoke versions of the songs she wants sung from the table top. The last time she did it (she doesn’t do it every time we drink together but it crops up every year or two) I found it less funny more terrifying as we all have kids and are knocking on 40s door and began to wonder at what point it will be not at all funny any more. Quite sobering in the end.
My best friend willed me her children all four of them, I was hugely touched and honoured when I was told. Then spent the next 18 years making sure she and her husband took no unnecessary risks! 🤣🤣
Totally see your point, Brenda. We have three babies, who the fuck wants to inherit three kids? THREE!! We really should have thought this through better… 😬
We had this exact conversation! “We can’t leave them to my sister because she’s a GP and already has three of her own so she’ll end up with 6, so lets choose your brother who, whilst isn’t as nice as my sister, is absolutely loaded and only has one child. Oh, but he lives in Bulgaria and the kids would never want to live there…’ What a minefield! We also discovered during our Will meeting that I want to be cremated and have a bench on a cliff top whereas my husband wants the kind of funeral they keep for Italian aristocracy, with hundreds of mourners in black veils and a huge crypt. How we’ve stayed married for 18 years is completely beyond me…
Worth saying for any Scottish readers that the legal system is different up here, so dying intestate would be slightly different, but you absolutely still do need a will. Who to leave your kids in the care of is the toughest decision we’ve ever made. Don’t want to leave them to X as she’s horrible but we’ll have to say it’s cos she lives far away, which also rules out Y even though he’d be great as he lives in the same place. Can’t leave them to Z, because if this terrible occurrence does happen the kids will be loaded and can’t trust them with that kind of money. At one point we’d picked the people and before we drew up the will they got bloody divorced, making us question our judgement all together.