The question of who your children are may seem a simple one. However, in the modern world where family dynamics are becoming increasingly complex, it is important to guarantee that the legal definition of “children” aligns with your personal opinion.
Commonly Wills are drafted by making a gift to a class of beneficiaries (in this case, “my children”), rather than making specific reference to the individual by name. Whilst this provides much needed flexibility for the future, it leaves open the question of what is a “child”.
You may need to consider addressing this issue if you consider your children:
- To include your stepchildren.
- To include children for whom you are appointed special guardian.
- To include children who have been in your long-term foster care and will remain so until they turn 18 years old.
- To not include children born outside of marriage or as a result of infidelity.
This question also presents itself should you not have a Will, with the statutory rules dictating who your children and remoter issue are. Should you die without leaving a Will, your children will be viewed by the law to include your legitimate children, your illegitimate children, your adopted children and, potentially, your children born by fertility treatment or surrogacy.
Similar issues may arise in defining other classes of beneficiary such as your grandchildren, siblings and nieces and nephews.
It is important that, on your death, it is your personal wishes rather than those defined in statute that dictate the distribution of your assets. If you feel you may benefit from advice in relation to your estate planning and ensuring your family is properly provided for then please contact our Private Client team.