When planning a will, parents have to make a decision about what they will do for their children. The first thing that comes to mind is guardianship. But it is also important to work out what your children will get in terms of assets. Whilst every situation is unique, there are some general ideas about what you might do.
If your children are under 18, any money left to them without an express indication of what should happen will be held in a bare trust for them until they reach 18. Once they reach 18, they will have access to the entire amount. However, you can set up a trust whereby trustees are appointed by you and they can make decisions about paying money out early if they feel it is needed.
One problem, especially if you leave a large amount, is what happens when your children reach 18. Usually, they are entitled to the whole amount, in full. But this can lead to wild spending excesses, a few years later your children could be left with nothing.
A lifetime trust does not give your children the entire amount when they reach 18. Instead, you appoint trustees who will have the discretion to decide when to release funds, depending on what it is being requested for. A benefit of this is that the assets in the trust do not become subject to the beneficiaries’ creditors or even spouse in the event of a divorce. This can also be beneficial if you have a child who is a potential problem child, be it through gambling, alcoholism or substance abuse.
Another option is to set up a staged release of the funds. This could be as simple as releasing 25% when your child reaches 18, 25% when they reach 25, 25% when they reach 30 and the final 25% when they reach 35. The choice of ages and percentages is complexly up to you. One other option is to allow the child to become a co-trustee when they reach at least 18, to allow them to understand how to manage trust money.
The biggest issue when setting up a trust that parents often fail to consider is what happens if one of their children dies before all the trust money has passed to them or even before they reach 18. This issue can be easily solved by setting out what happens in this event. You can set out whether your children have discretion to decide what to do with the trust in their own will. This may be allowing their children, your grandchildren, to become beneficiaries. You can also set out that in the event a child dies before accessing the trust that the assets are transferred to other trusts or given to a charity you feel the child would have supported.
As you can see, there are lots of things to consider when setting up a trust for your children. This blog does not even scratch the surface of what is possible. However, speaking to a solicitor can help you explore the options available and understand which one will be best for your circumstances.