When you work hard your whole life to raise children, it’s only natural that you’d want your money and assets to go to them after you die.
But if you don’t have a will, your children could end up with little or nothing from your estate. In extreme circumstances, they could even be taken into foster care.
A staggering 59% of UK adults don’t have a will, according to a 2016 survey published by Unbiased.co.uk. So what happens if you die without one?
The answer is governed by the ‘rules of intestacy’. In England, if you’re married or in a civil partnership and your estate is worth less than £250,000, your spouse or partner receive everything and your children get nothing.
But if your estate is worth more than £250,000 at the time of your death, your spouse or partner gets the first £250,000. What’s left is divided equally between them and your children.
However, the possessions and assets passed on to your children are subject to inheritance tax. They can only receive up to £325,000 – known as the ‘nil rate band’ tax-free. The remainder will have 40% deducted – that’s inheritance tax.
And inheritance tax is not the only way that your estate can be nibbled away. If your estate is complex, you may need a solicitor’s help to deal with it. And that means paying out legal fees, which could be substantial.
It’s true that legal fees can be – and often are – paid out of the estate. But it further diminishes what’s left for your loved ones to inherit.
A worst case scenario
Perhaps the worst aspect of not having a will arises if you and your spouse, or civil partner, die at the same time. It can happen in a car accident, for example.
If you have children under the age of 18, an application would have to be made to appoint a legal guardian, which could take several weeks.
Ultimately, the legal process ends up with a court deciding who the guardian should be, which could be the state. Your children could be taken into foster care.
An easy solution
The solution is to have a will drawn up by a professional will-writing service such as Maplebrook Wills. You can then appoint your own guardian – someone you trust to look after your children should the worst happen.
Guardians are typically, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins or best friends. “They’re people you trust who would step up and raise your children in a manner you approve of, in the worst possible circumstances,” says Maplebrook Wills’ Mike Pugh.
You’re also allowed to nominate more than one guardian. “The best practice would be to have a reserve guardian as well, in case the person you select is unable or unwilling to do the job in the future,” says Pugh.
Even in a new home, you’ll want your children to survive and thrive. You can do this by gifting them money for clothes, school trips and other expenses for their upbringing.
“This can be accommodated in the will. The downside of paying for expenses this way is that it diminishes the value of your estate and leaves less for them to inherit. The alternative is that you buy an insurance product from an insurance agent,” says Pugh.
All you really need to do to make sure your children are taken care of after you die is get a will. For more information, contact a Maplebrook Wills Legacy Planner near you on.