04/04/2012 15:45 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Why Parents Should Make A Will (Seventy Per Cent Of Us Have Not Done!)

why you should make a will PA

Having a will should be a legal requirement for all mums and dads, according to a top advisor.

Around 70 per cent of parents of children under 18 don't have a will but Phil O'Toole, who gives legal advice to the parenting websites OnlyMums and OnlyDads said they don't realise the implications.

None of us plans to die before our kids, but bad stuff happens. It's our responsibility to make sure our children are looked after.

Added to that is the complication that one in three families in Britain is now a 'step' family, meaning children are being brought up by a parent who isn't their natural mum or dad.

It's an issue close to my heart. I am the stepfather to a 10 year-old girl and natural father to boys aged seven and four.

I'm married to my sons' mother, but who would 'get' my stepdaughter if – heaven forbid – something happened to her mother?


Would she and her brothers be split up? What happens to them if their natural parent, or parents, go prematurely?


All of these uncertainties would not become such an issue if we made a will.

It might be a difficult subject to raise, and it might be feel like a laborious process to pull together, not to mention the cost, but according to Phil O'Toole, who is national accounts manager for will writers Portcullis Legals, "If you have children, it should be the first thing you do."

Phil adds: "The main reason people don't have a will is apathy. Younger parents seem to think wills are for people older than 50, or think they have nothing to leave as the house is not paid off etc.

"They miss the guardianship part of a will and this is the most important aspect if you are a parent.

"They should have a will as a duty of care to their children. Everyone should have a will but it should be mandatory that anyone with children or property should have an up-to-date will."

He said that without a will...

• Young children could be taken into care whilst guardians are appointed.

• Your spouse or civil partner will not automatically inherit ALL of your estate.

• Common law partners may not receive anything at all.

• People outside of your immediate family are unlikely to benefit.

• Lengthy disputes and delays are likely to prevent your beneficiaries from receiving the funds they need to settle your estate and benefit in the way you intend.

"Even if someone has a will it should be kept up to date," Phil adds. "For example if they remarry then an existing will is revoked.

"If a parent dies and leaves a child within a family unit that has a step parent then the custody of the child would in most cases go to the remaining natural parent."

So how do you go about making a will and what will it cost?

First of all, make sure you use an accredited will-writing service.

Look for the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) logo, the Office of fair trading logo (OFT) and ensure that there is Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance in place.

You'll need to provide the names and contact details of all Executors, Trustees, Guardians and the will writer will need to see your ID such as a passport.

They will also establish that you are of sound mind and that you understand the implications of what you are doing.

Costs can range from £100 to £400, depending on how complicated your situation is.

"You should pay a pre-determined fee, not expensive hourly rates and never pay for a scheme that is a monthly direct debit over many years," says Phil.

What about DIY wills? Are these a good idea or to be avoided?

Phil says: "A DIY will can be done and is legally binding only if it is witnessed correctly when signed. You are open to it being contested on many different levels, especially if you leave someone out without a good explanation as to why.

"Also beware of 'Free Wills' as they generally name themselves as Executors and make their money doing the probate at a typical rate of 3% of the full value of the estate on your death."

It sounds straightforward enough – and not as expensive as you might imagine.

The question for me, as the father of a stepdaughter and two sons is: how can I afford not to have a will?

• For more information on making a will go to DirectGov's dedicated guide on its website.