2020 has been a difficult year for lots of families. Even for those fortunate enough to have kept good health, the challenges of lockdown, with homes across the country being converted into offices, nurseries, schools and playparks all at once, have made this a year like no other. As a relatively new dad myself, I certainly had not expected our daughter to feature in so many meetings before her second birthday, typically as background noise but on one memorable occasion wandering right in through the unlocked door and onto camera. Thankfully clients and colleagues have been universally patient!
With all that is going on, the idea of estate planning has been far down the to-do list for many of us. But it is essential for parents to take steps to ensure that if the worst should happen, their families will be provided for as they would have wanted, and the interests of their children will be protected.
The starting point for all parents should be preparing Wills, and making sure these are kept up to date. It is often assumed that where a couple are married, then if one dies, the survivor will automatically inherit their whole estate. This is not necessarily the case, and the rules are different again for parents who are not married or in a civil partnership. Having a Will allows you to decide how your estate should be distributed, and name Executors who will ensure that your wishes are carried out. You can direct that any share due to children will be kept in trust until they reach an appropriate age, naming Trustees who will manage their inheritance on their behalf until that time.
Wills also provide parents with the opportunity to name guardians who they would trust to look after their children should the worst happen. This is not a straightforward decision for many parents, and having that discussion now and setting out the decision in your Wills is very important. We also encourage parents to consider leaving letters of wishes that might provide guidance to guardians should they ever be called upon. These are unique to every family but might include particular wishes about where children should be raised, how they should be educated, or whether they should be raised in any faith tradition.
All families are different, and for blended families, or those with children with special needs, there might be a number of additional aspects to be taken into account. The key is taking proper advice to ensure that your Wills are tailored to your family situation.
At the same time as preparing Wills, you should also consider putting in place Powers of Attorney to ensure that should you ever lose capacity, a trusted party can act on your behalf. And because you will want to be sure that your family is well provided for, we can also advise on life insurance and making sure that death in service and pension nomination forms are fully up to date.
At Morton Fraser, we are experts in all aspects of succession and tax planning and will work with you to get a proper understanding of your family situation and objectives. And we can carry out all communication, from initial enquiries right up to the signing of documents, using whatever combination of phone, email and video calls is most convenient for you.
Perhaps the best news is that for many families, putting in place some basic estate planning measures is a relatively straightforward process - letting you get back to the muddy puddles with peace of mind!