Keeping up to date

Are your wills, insurance, provision for children – up to date?  It is easy to arrange finances as a couple, then forget about what you’ve arranged. 

That’s understandable.  You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that nobody wants to think about their own death or injury or how they’ll be missed when they’re gone. The standard advice is that people should make wills at the latest when they buy property, have children or get married, whichever comes first.  It’s still a good idea.  But you can’t simply leave it there ever after.

Take property – what is the ownership?   If you have property with your partner and it is set up as “tenants in common”, the shares you have in the property don’t go to the partner on death they go to your estate.  That makes it easier to deal with a break up, you’ve each got your own share of the property that is separate.  And if you’re not married, and don’t have a will, your estate doesn’t automatically go to your partner.  That might be great, for now.  What if you make a will, then get married (which invalidates the will) or you get married, but still don’t make a will?    Different orders of events will often result in  completely different situations, and the chances of the result being what either of you wanted to happen are pretty slim.

Or look at children.  As an unmarried couple, you might have rights of access to the children, but without a will you don’t necessarily have rights to your partner’s money to look after those children if your partner dies, even if they wanted you to.  Maybe you are brave, get it sorted out and make a will and plan all the right things, not just what happens to your money and property, but your wishes about your children’s education, guardians in case you and your partner die at the same time, insurance to make sure finance is there for care for the children and so on.  And the children grow up.  Do they still need guardians?  Is the trust fund intended to help them after university still appropriate when they decide to leave school at 16.  Or do you still want them to get access to the money at 18 if they decide at 17 to go travelling for a few years – do you want your appointed guardians to have no power to protect them from their youthful enthusiasm and have to watch the money you put aside for them to make a start in life if you weren’t there to help them, squandered?

So unpleasant as it is, think about what you want to have happen if you and/or your partner die.  Make sure there is money there for the survivor and any children, and that what happens to your property, your partner and your children fits with what you and your partner want now, not what you wanted 20 years ago.

So when you have a plan, make sure that you review it  – when you change the relationship (marry, divorce etc.) when you buy, sell or change property and when children are born (or, sadly, die) and when they reach an age or a decision that changes what you’d want to happen.  You don’t have to make change for the sake of it – you just need to put aside your fears and reluctance to consider death, and make sure that if it happens, you don’t bequeath the people you love a problem besides having to cope without you.

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