THEY say in life nothing is certain but death and taxes, and considering my knowledge on taxation is rather limited, I am going to take on the never cheerful subject of death.
There is no denying the fact that none of us like talking about death and I am sure we are even more reluctant to think about our own deaths, especially if you have children.
However, the fact of the matter is that if you have children and/or a partner, it is vitally important you think about life after death and organise your will.
I think we all know a story about a friend of a friend or a neighbour, or maybe it runs even closer to home, where someone dies without leaving a will and things get complicated and unpleasant in the aftermath.
If you die intestate, if you die without making a will, the law will dictate how your money and possessions are distributed. In some cases, like if you are married or if you have a registered civil partnership, it might not matter, it may be simple in that you want to leave it all to your spouse and that’s it.
But for many people it is rarely that straightforward. I’m not here to tell you how you should distribute your money, nor am I here to give legal advice because I am not a solicitor, but I am a mother so I want to discuss life after death if you have children.
I asked recently on my own social media platform how many parents had made a will to determine who would mind their child or children in the event that they, the primary caregiver(s) died and 65% of people said they had no will made nor any guardians chosen.
I understand it is an exceptionally difficult conversation to have and an exceptionally difficult question to answer. The answer isn’t always straightforward, but don’t you want to be the one to answer that question, rather than leave people who care about your children battle it out in your absence at a time when your children will need support and safety over everything else?
If you have children and you are not married or if the father is not the legal guardian of the children and the mother dies, the children will have no legal guardian, so it is essential you put in place provisions to protect your children in the unlikely event of your death.
It could be the case that both sets of grandparents see themselves as fitting candidates to be guardians and if you have not in the least made your wishes known to whoever you choose, it could result in two sets of grandparents ending up in court to argue their case against each other, resulting in an even greater breakdown of that child or children’s family unit.
Aside from choosing guardians, you can also set out wishes in your will, which can include things like the specific distribution of personal items like jewellery, or you can indicate that you have a particular preference as to how your children might be educated or brought up. These are not legally binding but may act as a good guide for guardians.
It may be the case that when you initially write your will, you designate one set of grandparents to step in but they become ill or pass away in the meantime, or you may ask a sibling that has no children who then goes on to have his or her own children, and the prospect of them taking your children too isn’t feasible. So, your will may change over time and it’s important you change it as soon as it’s needed.
You will also need to pick executors for your will, usually two people closely related to your family unit like parents or siblings. If you are making a will concerning children under the age of 18, you will have to assign trustees too who will manage the funds left to provide for any minors until they turn 18.
An executor can also be a trustee, so it might be the case you assign an executor and a guardian as trustees so that the guardians have direct input and also guidance as to how funds are spent over the course of the child’s lifetime.
If you are reading this and haven’t decided who will mind your children if they were to be left without any legal guardians, I would urge you to do so as soon as possible.
Sit down with someone this weekend, your husband, partner, sibling, parent, and start the conversation if you need help deciding. Then make your wishes known to those you want to put in place as guardians. It might be the case that you approach the person or people by text or email first to give them the chance to take on board the idea and really think it over.
Whatever way you chose to start the conversation, that is up to you but please, whatever way that is, just do it.