It’s a boy! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s third child has arrived, born on 23rd April 2018 at 11:01am weighing 8lbs 7oz. He is fifth in line to the throne and the Queen’s sixth great-grandchild. Becoming a parent is an exciting if not hectic time whether it is your first child or third child and it takes a while to adjust to the lack of sleep, constant feeding and changing nappies! Being a parent brings an enormous responsibility to care for your children during their lifetime, but there is also a responsibility to care for your children should you no longer be around.
No-one knows exactly how many children are bereaved of a parent each year. In the absence of official data, The Childhood Bereavement Network carried out research published in November 2016 and estimated the numbers using mortality statistics, census data and other sources. According to their website, they estimated that in 2015 41,000 children under the age of 18 were bereaved of a parent each year in the UK.
That’s 112 newly bereaved children every day so it is imperative that as a parent you take steps to put your affairs in order to ensure that your children are cared for by the person or people of your choice and that financial provisions are in place should anything unforeseen happen
The answer is simple – make a Will. In this document you can appoint a guardian who would be responsible for your children’s welfare should you not be around and set out the financial provisions determining when your children will receive their inheritance.
As a parent, appointing a guardian is probably the most important thing parents with young children need to consider. You may wish to consider a family member such as your own parents or a sibling, but if the grandparents are elderly or perhaps there are no or unsuitable siblings, you may wish to consider appointing a friend or friends of a similar age to you or perhaps even younger.
Often a couple is considered rather than two unrelated individuals. The person(s) you choose would take over your legal rights and responsibilities so it is vital you are comfortable with your choice! It would, of course, be prudent to discuss matters with the person(s) to ensure that they would accept such an appointment prior to making your Will.
If you do not appoint a guardian in your Will, it is left to the courts to decide. This will result in a time consuming and costly process which is obviously stressful for those involved. It would be cheaper, quicker and easier for everyone if a guardian was appointed so staying away from court procedure altogether.
With regards to financial provision, you can, in your Will, set out how much of your estate your children will inherit and at what age. The age of legal capacity in Scotland is 16 and most people feel this is far too young for their children to inherit a potentially large sum of money. If there is no Will in place or your Will does not specify an age to inherit, then your children will receive funds at 16 years old.
To avoid this, trust provisions should be considered and included in your Will. The inclusion of a trust will set out the age that you wish your children to inherit, usually 18, 21 or 25. The trust can be flexible to allow the advancement of both income and capital before that age, to assist with ongoing costs including education if thought suitable by the trustees you have appointed in your Will. It would be sensible to have at least three trustees so that there is a majority and the trustees do not have to be the same individuals that you have appointed as guardians.
Your Will should be reviewed when your family circumstances change and having children is an ideal time to put your affairs in order and make/update your Will. It will only take a few hours of your time to make a straightforward Will, but it could make all the difference to your children’s future. Once in place, you can then go back to the hardest but most rewarding job in the world!