If you’re anything like most of us, you won’t have given much thought to making a Will. It’s one of those things there always seems plenty of time for in the future, but is actually quite urgent for parents of young children. No one knows what’s round the corner, and having a robust Will where your children are provided for is a very comforting feeling.

Making Sure ALL Children Get Their Share

Today’s typical family often doesn’t follow the ‘mum, dad and two kids’ scenario of previous generations. We have extended families that include our partner’s children as well as our own, and we often love them like our own too. The trouble is, the law sees stepchildren differently, and will exclude any from a share in your possessions unless you specifically name them in a Will.

Leaving ‘my children’ an equal share in a legacy will only include your biological children.

Providing for Children under 18

If the worst should happen – heaven forbid, but let’s suppose – who would look after the children? It’s an especially important question if you’re a single parent, and certainly one you don’t want answered by the state.

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In your Will, you can make arrangements for who will become your minor children’s guardians (you can’t appoint guardians for children over 18), and set up a trust to provide for them financially until they can inherit at age 18.

If you’re leaving a sizeable estate behind and worry about whether they’d cope with a sudden fortune while they’re still teenagers, your Will can also set out conditions of inheritance to help them cope and manage the money wisely. There may be legal and tax implications in setting up trusts, but your solicitor will guide you through the process and explain everything.

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As well as providing for your own children, a Will lets you leave a legacy gift to a favourite charity just as easily. Because charities often have similar sounding names, it’s important to include the registered charity number and double check all spelling. It’s also advisable that you have established some prior connection to the charity following the recent case in which a legacy gift was successfully contested.

Ways to Make a Will

There’s no law that says a Will must be made in a certain way. The main legal requirements are that you need two witnesses (who are not mentioned in the Will), and you set up executors who will make sure your wishes are carried out.

There are three main methods to make a Will:

  1. Through a Solicitor. This is the safest and often advised way of going about it. A solicitor with experience in Will writing and probate will make sure nothing is left out, and advise on matters you may not have thought of on your own.
  2. A Will Writing Service. These are easily found online but are unregulated so come with a few risks. Minimise those risks by making sure your chosen service is a member of The Institute of Professional Will Writers. These have a code of practice that requires good standards of service and a clear complaints procedure.
  3. A Will Writing Template. Readily available in local shops, and while legal, easily used incorrectly by those with no experience of Will writing. Unless your Will really is very simple and straightforward, the best advice is to not do it yourself.

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Have you made a Will yet? by Shutterstock

As a final word, once you’ve made your Will, remember to keep it up to date. As family circumstances change, you make new investments or savings grow, all Wills should be updated accordingly.

Drew writes for Unicef Legacies, and is based in London.