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Planning Retirement Online

Grandparents do make a difference - 24

August 2011


Each month we bring you this special column on grandparenting written by our expert contributor Jeanne Davis.  

This month:-  What do I bequeath to my grandchildren in my will, if anything?

If you have a subject you would like covered by Jeanne, please email us at: 

You can view previous editions of Jeanne's column in our index

What do I bequeath to my grandchildren in my will, if anything?

Last year, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was advised to change my will.
Attached to the new will was a document titled Chattels. This, the solicitor told me, I should use to specify which personal effects I wanted to leave and to whom. I had presumably overlooked this document in the previous will nor did I have grandchildren at that time. Our provisions were simple. The entire estate was bequeathed to our two children to be divided equally. They could do with the financial assets and the personal property as they wished.

Chattels are defined as personal property such as household or personal goods, furniture, jewellery, antiques and works of art, stamp and coin collections, cars, caravans and boats, electrical equipment, clothes, books and garden equipment.

But a few months ago I was looking through my jewellery box and thought that perhaps I would like to leave something specifically to the grandchildren. I focused on the rings. There are a few that do have a sentimental connection. I have three grandsons, too young now but perhaps when the time came, they could present the ring to a fiancée or partner. My engagement ring had been nicked in a household move. I did have my grandmother’s given to me by my mother. This would go to David now age 12 and the oldest grandson. The only other somewhat valuable rings I have are two pearl ones, a white pearl and black pearl. One each would go to Kenneth and James, the 8- year- old twins. Now what for Molly, age 13 and the only granddaughter?

There is a string of pearls given to me as maid of honour at a good friend’s wedding. I had worn it for my wedding and loaned it to my daughter for hers with a pair of custom made pearl earrings to match. The pearls and the earrings should go to Molly.

For the rest of the jewellery there would be my daughter and daughter- in- law to consider. I will leave that for them to decide. It is mostly costume jewellery. The good pieces I did have also disappeared in that household move. My mother had not specified and when my sister and I and sister- in- law gathered to select what we would like, it was harmonious. Fortunately we each had different tastes and again there was nothing very valuable. Mother loved big statement costume jewellery which with her exuberant personality she carried off with great élan and fashion statement nous.

There are bequests that are nor so harmonious. My mother-in-law had bequeathed her jewellery to her son’s daughter and not to her daughter’s. The hurt has mellowed slightly over the years but has not been forgotten. It is still topic of conversation at family gatherings.

Brenda H. says, “I have made no special arrangements for gifts to the grandchildren and really have no intention of doing so. If we are talking in financial terms this involves setting up a trust until they reach majority and in my case the expense of so doing would really be too great. Talking of chattels I should have a problem. I have eight grandchildren and it would be difficult to find enough worthwhile things to distribute. I have therefore maintained my simple provisions whereby my children will benefit equally and then deal with their own family and they will share out my not-very- valuable valuables between them, with the elder daughter having preference.

But Brenda says, “It is apparently quite common in old age for people to go around sticking labels on things denoting who should have them when the Great Day dawns. My own grandmother did this, and I finished up with a large china cat (which subsequently was broken)!

One further point. It may well be that the cherished whatnot which one felt to be of value/beauty/special significance may have little but nuisance value to an affectionate but youthful grandchild. As such it could be an encumbrance or embarrassment rather than a welcome reminder.”

Financial Bequests

Financial bequests to grandchildren will require a different set of guidelines. These need to be discussed with a solicitor. (Inheritance tax rules, economic volatility, are but a few of the complicated issues that need expert advice.)

When should a Will be reviewed?

Certain changes in personal circumstances should be a trigger to reviewing a will. These changes might be in the circumstances of the person who has made the will, or in the circumstances of those who would benefit. Even when a person’s situation is quite settled, changes in the inheritance tax rules, and asset values could mean that some of the provisions may no longer be beneficial.

Changes in personal circumstances such as marriages or a civil partnership will require a review, as does divorce or separation. The birth of children or grandchildren should trigger a review to make sure they are properly provided for. Changes in your financial situation, or that of your family or other beneficiaries may make a reallocation of assets appropriate.

Passage of time: all wills should be reviewed regularly, probably at least every five years.

For guidance on some of these issues go to the: HM Revenue and Customs website


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