Adopting a child? Is your Will up to date?
After the lengthy, rigorous and often emotional process of adopting a child is complete, the practical reality of your new family dynamic finally kicks in. You have probably had enough of paperwork and the legal system, but now that you are parents to a new child (or children), it is unlikely that you will have thought yet about what would happen if you died.
As you will be all too aware, you now have legal dependents, so you should consider what provision you would want to make for your children in the event of your death.
Here at the Grandparents Legal Centre, we are specialists in working with adoptive parents and we have experience in advising on the additional considerations that need to be given when writing a Will in those specific circumstances. As these can be complex, we would always recommend that you use a solicitor to draft your new Will, as a simple oversight in the wording or an error in the execution of the document could result in an unintended outcome, or invalidate the Will altogether.
So, what do you need to do?
Choose your executors carefully. These are the people who will carry out the terms of your Will as you have stipulated. They will gather in your assets, pay any debts and then distribute the money to the beneficiaries in due course. These same people may act as your trustees if you include any ongoing trusts in your provisions.
Appoint guardians. You can choose who you wish to care for your child or children if you die whilst they are still young. Given what you went through in order to adopt, this is something that you should think very carefully about and obviously you should seek the proposed guardians’ prior approval before including them in your Will. You should include this provision to try and avoid the matter having to go to Court for a decision, especially where there may be issues with the birth family.
Decide who should receive how much and at what age. This may be of particular concern if the children who you have adopted are vulnerable or have complex needs. You may also consider whether you will treat your adopted children the same as any biological children (there is no right or wrong decision here – your Will is completely personal and should reflect your wishes) or you may want to protect your children by including a trust and letting your trustees decide who receives what and when. We can discuss all the various options and alternatives (and any possible tax implications) with you so that you can make an informed decision.
Don’t feel scared about making a Will and making a “wrong” decision – you should review your Will regularly and you can change it as often as you like, providing you have the necessary mental capacity to do so. As your level of wealth, your circumstances and your situation change, your idea as to how that money should be divided after your death may also change. It is better to have a Will in place so that your estate is dealt with as you have chosen, rather than under the rules of the law (adoptive children are treated the same as a biological child and would be entitled to receive an equal share of your estate outright at the age of 18 – the amount would depend on the value of your estate and whether or not you leave a surviving spouse).
Also in the unlikely and undesirable event that the adoptive relationship breaks down, we can advise you what steps you can take to protect your estate and again, how you can approach the issues that arise.
Whatever the issue may be, even if you just have a simple query, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0843 289 7130 to discuss things further.