Estate Planning for Young Families

For parents of young children, in particular, a Will can allow you to appoint guardians for your children in the event you both die before your children become adults.

Let’s consider the following scenario.

Peter and Lucy

Peter and Lucy were a happily married couple with three young children, Emma, James and Mark. Lucy, was also the mother of Jason, an adult child from a previous relationship.
Although Peter and Lucy had worked hard to give their children the best possible start in life, they were not particularly wealthy and did not think it was important to make their own Wills.
What happened to Peter and Lucy?
On their tenth wedding anniversary, Peter surprised Lucy with a trip to Fiji. Lucy was delighted as she had never been to Fiji, but had heard it was spectacular for scuba diving.
Shortly into their trip, however, Peter and Lucy were tragically killed in a boating accident, while scuba diving near the Fijian island of Vanua Levu.

What happens if a person dies without a Will?

When a person dies without leaving a Will, the person is said to die “intestate”. That means that the deceased’s assets are distributed according to a statutory formula. In other words, the government, not you, decides who inherits your assets. Further, if parents of young children both die without appointing a guardian (which they could have done by Will), the children have no certainty as to who will look after them; that is, it is a matter for the Court to decide.

What happened to Emma, James and Mark?

As a loving grandmother, Lucy’s mother, Nancy, saw it as her “duty” to become the children’s guardian. As the only willing relative, the court agreed and granted her such an order.
Unfortunately, however, the estate did not have sufficient assets to meet the children’s living expenditure. As a single pensioner, this caused Nancy and the children considerable hardship.
To make matters worse, under the rules of intestacy, Jason (Lucy’s adult child) also ended up with a share of the estate, leaving even less available for Emma, James and Mark.

The power of the right advice

Had Lucy and Peter sought appropriate legal advice before they died, their solicitor could have:

  • prepared each of their Wills with appropriate guardianship provisions. In the present case, was Lucy’s mother really the best person to become guardian (given her age, financial position etc)?;
  • identified a need for, and referred them to a financial planner to discuss, life insurance; and
  • the life insurance payout could be used to fund the children’s cost of living.
Don’t be a statistic!

At Forty Seven Legal, we understand the needs of young families and can prepare an estate plan, including your Wills, tailored to your needs. We will work with your Financial Planner or the Planners at Forty Seven Financial Planning if you don’t have one to make sure there are sufficient assets upon death.
Wherever possible, we avoid hourly charging by offering services on a fixed fee basis so that you understand upfront what the cost will be.