Your estate is everything you own at the time that you die. This can include your house and any other properties you own, your money, your car and all of your other personal possessions.
A Will sets out your final wishes including how your estate should be distributed after you die. It will include any instructions to be followed in relation to your funeral and crucially you can also make provisions for guardianship of your children.
Thinking about what will happen after you die is a difficult subject. Many people avoid it or put this off. However if you are a parent you must give thought to who will look after your children.
When you prepare a Will, you need to think about and plan who you want to appoint as guardians for any children who are under the age of 18 years. It goes without saying that any parent would want their children to go to someone who they trust absolutely to care for them.
You need to think about the various scenarios that might occur after your death:
If you and the other parent have a good relationship and you die and are survived by the other parent, that parent would normally continue to have full responsibility for the children. You both should still discuss who should become guardians if you both die and add this to your Wills.
If you and the other parent die and you do not appoint a guardian in your Will and your children are orphaned before they reach 18 years of age, the courts will step in and appoint guardians. The court may not appoint the people that you would have chosen yourself. This is a risk.
What happens if you do not get on with the other parent or do not want them to be the guardian? You need to set out in your Will who you would want to be your nominated guardians and say why.
By appointing guardians in your Will, and also possibly writing a letter of wishes explaining why you want your children to be looked after by these people, you are doing all you can to influence who will look after your children after you are gone. Taking these steps also makes it less likely that the Court will overrule your wishes in the event that guardianship of the children is challenged by someone else. Challenges can be, and often are, made by grandparents, siblings, aunties and uncles as well as biological parents who are separated or divorced from the person who has died.
Being a legal guardian for one or more children is a big responsibility. They will be responsible for the day-to-day care of your children, as well as making decisions about their education, upbringing, health and welfare. It is essential that you talk to anyone who you are considering appointing as a guardian in order to make sure that they are willing to take on the children, before naming them in your Will. You also need to consider a number of factors, such as their geographical location, how you feel about their ability to act as parents, whether they get on with your children and whether they are able to offer the stable family environment that you would wish for them.
Having appointed a guardian by Will, it is necessary to review it from time to time and make sure your choice of guardian is still appropriate. For example, if you have a new born baby you may wish to appoint the child’s 60 year old grandparents as guardians. However, fast forward 16 years and you may wish to reconsider whether the grandparents, now in their 70s, are able to cope with the challenges of raising a teenager!
As a parent it is important that when preparing your Will, you consider more than just the financial and property aspects. Our specialist solicitors in wills and probate and family law are on hand to help you navigate this difficult area. For bespoke, practical advice, please do not hesitate to call today on 0161 6155554. You owe it to your family.