For many parents, starting a family is what reminds them of the importance of preparing their Will. You may have made your Will as soon as your children were born, updated an existing estate plan or begun the process of implementing a new one. However, there are a few things you can do to make smarter decisions when it comes to estate planning as a parent. Here are some considerations to make when including your kids in your Will.
Choose a trusted guardian
As a parent, one of the most important things you can do in your Will is to name a guardian. A guardian is someone you nominate, who will step in to care for your minors. It is also one of the most difficult decisions, because no one can really compare to you as a parent. While it is unpleasant to have to think about, it is worth taking active steps to create the contingency plan and formally document wishes for guardianship of younger children in the event something were to happen to you or your partner. That way, you will have peace of mind that comes with knowing they will be cared for by someone you trust.
If there are no specific instructions regarding guardianship in the Will and the care of minor children needs to be sought, any person with sufficient interest (like grandparents, aunties or uncles) can apply for guardianship of your children. It will ultimately be up to the Family Court to make the decision for you, and it may be in favour of someone who you may not have necessarily chosen yourself.
Although appointment of a guardian is formalised in your Will, it is best to discuss your intentions, obtain consent and discuss your expectations with the person or people you've nominated. Taking on the role of guardian is a great responsibility, so it is gernerally a wise idea for you to ensure that the person is up for the task. You should also communicate all the information they may need (including health care information) if they were to have to carry out wishes relevant to your childrens’ upbringing in your absence. If you don't want to burden the person with the details, you might consider leaving a letter alongside your Will.
Specify an age of inheritance
Your Will includes decisions about beneficiaries, and usually children are named as a matter of priority since they are dependents. As well as including your children as recipients of your estate, it is wise to outline details around how you’d like your children to receive their inheritance. This might involve specification of the age at which your child would receive it, or at a different point in time marked by a specific circumstance.
If no specific wishes are outlined, a minor child will receive their inheritance at the age of majority; usually around 18 years old. Some parents might deem this too young – especially if they will be handling a windfall – and instead choose to have their children receive funds when they are of greater maturity.
Have backups for key figures in your Estate Plan
Estate planning implies that it happens well ahead of time, with many things expected to change between the plan’s creation and its execution because, well, life happens! That’s why it’s necessary to appoint back-ups for all the key roles in your Will.
Some key players include your Executor, who is essential to the management of your estate after your passing, and any nominated guardians. Having a second option for these important roles can give you confidence in knowing that there is a back-up plan if your original choice is unable or no longer willing to fulfil a demanding role when the need arises.
Review your Will frequently
You may not always need to make changes, but routinely reviewing your documents ensures your Will stays up-to-date and accurately reflects your current wishes. As well as reviewing your Will at regular intervals – every 6-12 months – there are some other moments that might trigger updates:
Moving location – this might include moving away from people you have appointed in your Will, or purchasing/selling property.
Growing family – any additions to the family including children, other family members or a new family pet (that may need a separate pet guardian to be nominated).
Sale or purchase of large assets – this can include property or any other sizeable assets such as a vehicle.
We here at Willed recognise that your Will isn’t a one-and-done document. As your family evolves over time, one of the smartest things you can do is maintian your legal Will. We've simplified the process by creating an online Will writing journey, which you can update at any time.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.