What happens to your adopted children if you die without a Will
In January 2018 The Independent published a survey from MacMillan Cancer Support. The article began “Nearly two thirds of adults in the UK have not prepared a will, meaning their possessions, money, property and even dependent children could be left with someone they have not chosen. As many as one in 10 people with wills admitted they planned to update theirs to include children and grandchildren but had not got around to doing so.”
Making a will or updating an existing will is like the plan to clear out the garage – something people intend to do but just not today!
In these times of uncertainty and in the midst of an unprecedented threat to our own health and that of our family, we are now, more than ever, all the more aware of our own mortality.
Perhaps the research is now out of date. My firm has received a significant increase in new enquiries from people wanting to make wills. Many adoptive parents have been particularly concerned about who would care for their children in the event of their death. Many are even more concerned about the damage which
could be done to their children through receiving a large inheritance at the age of 18.
Victoria Ridge is a specialist in drafting wills for adopters. She said “We recently spoke with Steve and Joanne via Skype.
Steve and Joanne are married and have 2 adopted children, Sean aged 14 and Natalie aged 11. Sean has ADHD. He can be physically and verbally abusive to his family and the family suspect that he is using drugs. Natalie is a sweet natured girl but she is very vulnerable and could quite easily be persuaded to give substantial sums of money away to others.
Steve and Joanne’s assets are quite substantial. They have joint property and savings amounting to over £1 million. They do not have wills currently. This means that on the death of the survivor of Steve and Joanne, that the whole estate would pass to Sean and Natalie at 18. They were extremely concerned about their children inheriting such a large sum of money outright – for Natalie, that she may be manipulated into giving much of it away and for Sean, that he could end up seriously ill or worse.
We were able to discuss various options with Steve and Joanne. Ultimately we were able to create trusts in their wills to ensure that whilst monies would be made available for Sean and Natalie to fund their education, any treatment or therapy, day to day living costs etc, their inheritance would be protected and managed by the chosen trustees, for their benefit.
Because the trusts were discretionary in nature to allow the trustees maximum flexibility to assess the circumstances at the time of their deaths, this does mean that the role of the trustees is exceptionally important. In this instance Steve and Joanne did not have any family members or friends who they wanted to act in this role, mainly because they did not want to put that responsibility on them. They asked if we would be able to act as professional executors and trustees which we are able to do. We have an experienced team who work closely with our adoption colleagues so feel we have a true understanding of the issues many adoptive children are faced with.
We also prepared detailed letters of wishes to provide guidance to the trustees about things which were important to Steve and Joanne and to try to set out a framework to best support the children through their lives. These documents are very much tailored to the individual clients and specifically to the children and cover the more practical aspects.
We were also able to help Steve and Joanne to choose guardians to care for Sean and Natalie should Steve and Joanne die whilst the children were still minors. The guardians can be the same people as the executors and trustees but can also be different people, as we all have different strengths. My legal colleagues weren’t ready to be parents!”
It is important to take specialist legal advice when preparing wills to make sure that the will is tailored to each family’s specific circumstances.
Whilst clients are concerned about signing documents during these times, we are able to provide guidance about how to properly execute documents whilst complying with the rules in relation to social distancing.
If you have not made a will or it has been some time since you have reviewed an existing one, now is the time to act! Contact us on our freephone 0800 8 60 62 65 or fill in our online enquiry form and we’ll call you back as soon as possible.