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Archive for June, 2011

No one could fail to be moved by the tragic deaths of the young parents and the paternal grandfather of baby Logan, six months old at the time of the car crash earlier this year which happened on the M4 motorway in South Wales which killed his parents and grandfather when the family was on the final leg of its journey home after a holiday in Morocco. Logan has been made an orphan while his paternal grandmother has lost her husband, son and, in all but legal status, daughter-in-law. I wonder if any of them had Wills. The grandfather may have, but he could just as easily be one of the 70 per cent of the UK population who haven’t made a Will and, if this is the case, then it’s an additional aggravation for his distraught widow at a time when she could, frankly, do without it, especially as a Will might have ensured a better position for her.

My bet is that the young couple didn’t. I mean, who expects to die in their early 20s? But tragedies do happen, so the minute you have something to leave, even if that ‘something’ is a child, then it’s absolutely vital to make a Will to save your grieving family from the additional stress and worry regarding custody of your child/ren. “Well my mum/sister/brother will have him/her; why do I need a Will?” I can hear you all asking. While my intention is not to frighten you – maybe just give you serious pause for thought – it’s important that you realize that there is absolutely no guarantee that your child will go to the person you thought he/she would go to if you haven’t specified a guardian for that child or children in a Will.

When a child is orphaned, and there is no legally appointed guardian (which is what a Will ensures), the child becomes the responsibility of the local Social Services.  They have the final decision as to who will raise the child. Your family can say until they’re blue in the face that you would have wanted your child to go to X; if Social Services don’t think that X can provide a good enough home environment then X won’t get your child. They may be able to take them in the short-term but, in order to keep them on a permanent basis until they reach 18, X will have to submit to a stringent assessment that can take several months, much like when people apply to become foster parents, resulting in an extended period of uncertainty over whether or not “relative carer” status will be granted to X. During this time, your child may or may not be permitted to live with X and, if Social Services don’t feel that anyone within the family is suitable as a guardian, your child can be put into care, fostered or even adopted.

Even when “relative carer” status is given, Social Services have the power to rescind this at any time if they feel things are not working out to their satisfaction and X will always be subject to regular and ongoing assessments.

We read or hear about people dying in accidents every day, and there are lots more that we never hear about, so it becomes commonplace.  It takes a story with a significant ‘tragedy’ angle for it to achieve headline status that thrusts it into the public consciousness.  But will people think ‘that could be me; I’d better get my Will sorted’? Well, maybe a few. I know one couple who did write Wills as a direct result of this accident. But for most people, even if it does prompt them to think about the fact that they don’t have Wills, it’ll be a fleeting thought that fades with time and then disappears until the next major tragedy occurs. After all, things like that only happen to other people – don’t they?  Well sorry but no – the fact is, it really could happen to you.

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