Perhaps one of the first things to think about when planning or revising your Will is who your dependents are. Who relies on you financially or for care? These are significant considerations you will need to think about.
Obviously, this could include a spouse, civil partner or co-habiting partner, along with any children you may have. This isn’t limited to your natural children; you may have adopted or step-children you will need to consider. It may also include anyone you have been caring for or looking after financially, such as elderly relatives or a child with a disability.
If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, it is vital that you have a Will to protect them should you die. If you don’t then the proceeds from your estate will pass to your children or to other relatives if you have no children. If there are no relatives, your estate will pass to the Crown. Under the Inheritance Act 1975 your partner may be able to make an application for some of your assets, but this will take time and money.
If you and your partner die before your children are 18 years old, they will need a guardian to take responsibility for them.
You may also consider setting up a Trust to cater for the financial costs of being a guardian, by leaving a property for any children in the Trust until they are older. Usually a guardian will be one of the trustees, but it’s advisable to appoint someone separate as well to help the guardians and ensure there is no conflict of interest.
More thought also needs to go into providing for a child with disabilities. If you have more than one child, it is natural to want to provide for them equally. That said, sharing the proceeds of your estate equally between your children may not be in the disabled child’s best interests.
If you plan to leave a lump sum to each child, you need to assess whether or not the disabled child has the capability to make decisions for themselves. If they don’t have capacity to deal with their financial affairs, a deputy may need to be appointed. This is likely to eat into some of the funds of their inheritance.
You will also need to consider whether any inheritance left to a disabled child will affect their entitlement to means tested benefits. If it does, their inheritance may have unintended consequences that leave them worse off financially rather than better.
Again, setting up a Trust to provide an income for the disabled child is often a sensible approach to take.
There are different types of Trusts to consider and Trust law is complex. A good Estate Planner or Will Writing Professional will be able to advise you on this and all aspects of providing for your dependents in the way that you want.