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Writing a Will

Parents often worry about how best to provide financial support to their child without leaving them in a vulnerable position. Find answers to the most frequently asked questions here...

Do I need to have a will? What happens if I don't?

It is especially important to write a will if you have a family member with reduced capacity or some other type of disability. If you don't write a will, your estate will be distributed according to the rules set down in law. This might mean:

  • they get less (or more) than you wanted
  • the money is paid to them directly even if they are unable to manage it
  • they lose their means-tested benefits
  • the person being in a vulnerable position as other may try to take advantage of them because of their money

By writing a will, and taking some simple extra steps, you can make sure the people you care about will get the right financial support and protection when you die.

I don't want my daughter's benefits to be affected by an inheritance. Should I leave all of my estate to my son and ask him to look after her?

Some parents consider disinheriting their child to protect their entitlement to benefits, but there are many reasons why this may not be the best thing to do.

If your son's circumstances change, he may find it difficult to fulfil this role. Your daughter would be disadvantaged if he divorced, was declared bankrupt or died without making a will containing suitable provisions.  This is because the money intended for your daughter would be treated as belonging to him.

Also, children have a legal right to inherit a share of their parents' estates. If you disinherit a child, there is a risk that another relative, or even the local authority, could contest your will. This can happen regardless of how the receipt of a large amount of money would effect your child's benefits.

You can avoid these pitfalls by setting up a discretionary trust in your will.

We would like our son to live in the family home after we die, can we leave our house in trust?

Yes, but you should make sure you leave enough money in trust to maintain the property throughout your son's life. There are also other options that give your son a right to live at home that you might want to consider.  We can provide more information about what is most appropriate in you own circumstances.

My daughter has reduced capacity and his grandparents want to leave her some money in their wills. I'm worried this could affect her benefits - what should I do?

You or your parents should set up a 'pilot' trust for your daughter now. You can do this with a nominal sum, say £10, and then at a later stage your parents, you and other members of your family (or friends) could then leave money to the trust in your wills. 

Next steps

Please contact us for more information.


Cairn offer a unique mix of professionalism with a person-centred, caring and understanding approach.

Hilary Patrick, Honorary Fellow, School of Law, University of Edinburgh