We rarely take the time to consider the rather morbid question of what will happen after we’ve gone? That will come as no surprise, with most parents already so preoccupied with juggling work, paying bills and trying to spend any spare time together as a family. However, as with many topics, having kids can add a totally new perspective and drafting a Will may end up being the most important thing you ever do.
For most people, considering the safeguarding of their estate may not feel like a priority because they believe their current assets and savings are not really worth the hassle – or more likely, that their present situation should be taken as read when it comes time for the estate to be squared away. However, as Saga Legal explains, there is the worrying possibility that in the event of your passing it could fall upon the government to settle your case, meaning your loved ones may never get to benefit from it.
In an ideal world, your partner and children will be the first to receive the bulk of any proceeds you have left. However, if you don’t have a Will to officially recognise them as the beneficiaries it could be that your money, property and possessions are shared out according to the law instead of your exact wishes. This could mean someone you wanted to pass things on to ending up with nothing.
Many people of rightfully wary of scare-mongering but the facts are that without a Will, unmarried couples are not the de facto owners of assets and property reasonably left to them. A legally-binding Will is your way of having the ultimate say in who should receive your assets in full and without exception.
It is worth noting that some life insurance policies can have beneficiary forms that surpass Wills, so if you have one, be sure to regularly check the beneficiaries on the account and ensure it matches up with your Will – which itself should be reviewed or updated at least once a year.
It’s often forgotten that a Will is not only used to settle the matter of money or material possessions; but can also be used to determine the legal guardianship of any persons under the age of eighteen. Should the very worst happen, you’ll be in need of a Will to express your wishes as to who should take up custody of your children in your stead. There’s no denying that knowing your child will be left with someone you trust to take care of them would be an inescapable source of comfort.
If you are thinking of getting started, one of the first things to do is list all of your assets, whether that’s bank accounts, life insurance policies, personal items, properties you own or any investments. This gives you an initial idea of where you stand financially and what you actually have to leave behind, as well as making everything a lot simpler if you’re planning on approaching a company to help you create a Will.
You might also want to take some time to decide to whom and when you want specific items to be given. On an emotional level, this can involve huge decisions; especially as even a small piece of jewellery could have enormous sentimental value, so take your time.
Picking a guardian for your children is also worth thinking about, as is selecting one or two alternatives in case when the time comes, they’re unwilling to takeover or simply unable. Before you begin constructing your Will, you should consult with them about your intentions. You don’t want them to be uncomfortable about the situation or end up creating a cliché movie plot where your child just turns up on their doorstep out of the blue.
It’s also worth choosing an executor to carry out your wishes and handle the paperwork, as well as deciding on more personal aspects such as how your funeral should be arranged and even how you would like your children to be raised or where you want them to be schooled.
Penny for your thoughts
Even if you don’t feel that you’ve accrued enough financial worth right now to bother drawing up these documents, remember that even if you start the process now, your wishes will still apply to any future property and assets that you may acquire. No-one is saying you definitely need a Will, but our job as parents is to look after our children and knowing that will happen whatever life brings us is an option worth considering.