No one likes to think about what will happen after we are gone. Often, this means we put off conversations and avoid preparing a will. However, there are several reasons why writing a will when you have a child is particularly important.

1) To provide for your child

By drafting a will, you help to ensure your child will be financially secure. You could ensure they have a home to live in and cash to help pay the bills. This is particularly important if the child you want to provide for is not biologically yours. While adopted children are treated the same as biological children in Scotland, stepchildren or any other child you may have helped raise will not be entitled to a share of your estate unless specifically named in your will.

2) Ensure your child's inheritance is protected

In Scotland, children can inherit at age 16. This can result in relatively young children receiving large sums of money before they have experience in budgeting or managing finances. Even a simple will can include provisions to protect your child from this. Simple trust provisions will allow you to appoint people you trust to manage your child's inheritance until they are old enough to manage the inheritance themselves. The people you appoint will have the discretion to release funds to help with university fees, school books or after school activities should your child need it. This is an important reason for writing a will when you have a child.

3) Appointing a guardian

Potentially the most important reason for writing a will when you have a child is to appoint a guardian. This is the person you would like to nominate to raise your child in your place. A guardian may be a relative, a partner or a friend you trust. There are some points you may wish to consider when appointing a guardian:

• Who would look after your child if you died?

If you have not appointed a guardian, then the normal position would be for your child's other parent to look after them. If this is not something you are comfortable with – such as if they do not have a relationship with their child or would have trouble caring for your child on their own – then, you may wish to appoint a guardian to share parental rights and responsibilities with them.

• What if both parents have died?

If you and your child's second parent pass away, then it is extremely important for a guardian to be appointed in your will. If no guardian has been appointed, then social services will be responsible for deciding what will happen to your child.

• What about stepparents?

Stepparents have no legal rights or responsibilities for their stepchildren. This means that unless they are appointed as guardian in your will, then they would have no legal rights to care for your child if you passed away. If you would like to protect their position in your child's life, you can appoint them as your child's guardian.

• Who should you appoint as guardian?

While writing a will when you have a child, it is important to consider who you trust to step into your shoes. A guardian will gain parental rights and responsibilities over your child; and will make important life decisions such as where they live and decisions around their health and medical care. They can be a family member, a stepparent or a family friend – however they should always be someone over the age of 16 who you trust to care for your child.

• Can you appoint more than one guardian?

Absolutely. In theory, you can appoint as many guardians as you would like – however, we would usually recommend no more than two. Remember that if you appoint more than one person to act together they will have to agree on all important decisions, such as where your child lives, so it is worth considering if they could co-parent effectively. Alternatively, you may want to appoint a backup guardian who will only step in if your first choice is unable to act.

Remember that a guardian has to accept this role before they gain parental rights and responsibilities. You should ensure that they are comfortable with this responsibility before naming them as your child's guardian.

Making a will in Scotland is easy and affordable using Wills by Brodies. Taking you step by step through the process, Wills by Brodies helps you start to write a Scottish will online from just £180.


Christy Foster

Senior Solicitor