5 legal documents parents should put in place to make life easier for their children

From signing up to numerous out-of-school activities to attempting the five-a-day challenge, we do all we can to give our children the best possible chances in life.

But according to private client solicitor Annie Thomas from Kirwans law firm, there is one thing we could be doing for our children that too many parents are putting off; making plans to ensure their wellbeing should our current situation change.

“For many parents, this sort of planning requires thought processes that are just too painful,” says Annie. Add to that the fact that most people are constantly struggling to find time to make the tea, let alone to think about who would care for their children if they weren’t around, or how you and your spouse would handle child custody in the event of a divorce, and you can see why so many mums and dads shelve the process until a later date.

“However, it really is important that parents plan for even the most horrendous scenarios, such as the loss of mental capacity or our ability to make decisions, and even for death to avoid their children facing further confusion and heartache.”

Here, Annie examines some of the key legal documents all parents should sort out asap to ensure their children are well-protected.

1)    Make a will

No-one wants to contemplate a time when they might not be around for their little (or even big) ones, but if you have plans in place you can rest assured that your estate will be split exactly as you intended. This is important as, without a will in place, children are only entitled to an inheritance if the parent’s spouse has also passed away, or if their parent’s estate is worth more than £250,000. It’s relatively cheap to do, costing as little as £250, so it won’t break the bank either.

 2)    Arrange guardianship

A really tricky one this; who would you choose to look after your children should the time come that you’re unable to? It’s a difficult but important decision to make, because all sorts of problems can occur if the parents die with no plans in place as to who would take care of the kids – including the courts appointing someone on your behalf.

3)    Create a lasting power of attorney (LPA)

An LPA is a legal document that lets you appoint attorneys to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types of LPAs, health and welfare, which gives an attorney the power to make decisions about your practical and medical care should you be unable to; and property and financial affairs, which deals with the management of your money and property. Both should be put in place in order to protect yourself and your children.

4)    Create a post-nuptial agreement

Even with the best of intentions, there’s no denying that divorce can get ugly. So it’s a good idea to create a post-nuptial agreement that covers finances, the family home, pensions, maintenance and arrangements made for current children or children in the future, both financially and practically. It’s worth remembering though, that the court will take the children’s needs into account first when deciding on a financial settlement and won’t uphold any prenuptial that is in any way detrimental to them, so make sure they are first and foremost in your plans.

5)    Take out a Whole of Life assurance policy and put it in trust

A Whole of Life assurance policy allows the insurer to pay out a lump sum to the beneficiary when you die, rather than within a specified timeframe, which means that grown-up children, or whoever you choose to be their guardian, will receive the money when you die rather than having to wait weeks or months for it. Putting it into trust makes it clear who should receive the money, so avoiding delays often caused by red tape.

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