Don’t Forget Your Kids in Your Will!

The pandemic brought home the harsh reality to a lot of us that we are human and need to plan ahead for unknowns.

Yes, I know you are unlikely to forget your kids in your will, but bear with me because you probably will forget an important matter related to your kids. Read on …

A few months ago, a dear friend passed away. He had been suffering for a while with cancer but never got down to making a will. Whenever he and his wife got down to discussing their wills, it felt like they were giving up the battle against cancer; and they wouldn’t work on it. He had a couple of young kids and suddenly the family is now busy trying to handle a lot of estate-related issues, with the kids being of different nationalities and assets being located in different parts of the world.

The pandemic brought home the harsh reality to a lot of us that we are human and we may not live till our 70s or 80s. Hence procrastinating on writing up a will is now seen as a bad idea and a lot of friends are in the process of preparing their wills. This blog covers two aspects related to wills that I see many people not following.

The first is the quest for perfection. Don’t wait for coming up with the perfect solution on how to distribute your assets. I have learnt, over the years, that perfection is the enemy of good.  Who knows when the proverbial bus will knock you down and therefore, put down in writing today how you would like to distribute your assets. You can then later on finetune it, register your will, etc. If you don’t do that, you run the risk that if you suddenly die, your family is left in a mess with how to access your assets.

The second point is the custody of your kids. I used to, like most people, think that the primary purpose of a will is to let people know how you want to split your assets. Many years ago, one of my close friends, Bruce Rigal, asked me whether Fiona and I had decided who would look after our kids in case both of us die. Our kids were 8 and 6 years old at that time.  We had not thought about that at all till then.  Very often, people only think that wills are about your material assets and don’t realise that the biggest decision you need to make in your will is who would look after your kids in case you both die when they are still minors. Who would you want to be in charge of looking after and moulding your kids, if both you and your partner suddenly die in an accident?

Fiona and I were visiting Brazil in 2004 for the wedding of our close friends Stefania and Wim. This was the first time we were travelling without our kids. We were also going to be spending a week on a small boat on the Amazon river in the middle of the forest. And we had not yet written our wills.  We first decided which of our sisters to ask to look after our kids and get her agreement to do so. We then quickly downloaded the format of a will and wrote our wills the night before we flew off. This way we at least had something in writing about who would look after our kids and how we wanted our assets to be allocated in case we both met with an accident on our trip. For many years, this was the only will we had written until we finally got a proper one done many years later, which we got registered.

So do not procrastinate about making your will, and if you have minor kids, do not forget to mention who you would like to look after them in case you and your partner die.  Many people are superstitious and feel that writing a will, especially when they are young, is an ill omen. That’s hogwash. A few months ago, a friend’s close relative was murdered in the US, and both sets of grandparents are in a bitter custody battle over who would look after the young baby. Please make sure you do not leave your kids in such a situation.

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