Sorting out your affairs can save your family confusion and heartache in the long term. Jo Wild explains why it’s one of the most important steps you can take.
In order to bring your legal affairs up to date then the first step I would recommend is to make a Will or to update your existing Will. Only by making a Will can you be sure that your estate passes to the family, friends, loved ones or charities that you would like. In making a Will you can leave clear instructions about how your estate should be dealt with. If you do not leave a valid Will then the Intestacy Rules will say how your estate will be distributed and it might not be passed to the people that you would otherwise have chosen. Unrelated friends do not benefit under the Intestacy Rules.
By making a Will you can choose who should deal with your estate, and these people are appointed your Executors. Without a Will your closest blood relatives will have to apply to the court to be able to administer your estate and this can cause difficulties and delay. If you have a Will you can choose, and you might want to have, friends more distant relatives or professionals such as a solicitor or accountant to act as your executor. If you have young children you will also be able to appoint guardians for them in your Will, which can offer great peace of mind if the worst were to happen.
By having a Will you can also decide to leave gifts to who you would like, to make sure that family heirlooms continue to be treasured, or to pass on a keepsake to a good friend. You also have the chance to remember other friends, family or charity by making cash gifts in your Will.
If Inheritance Tax is a concern then by making a Will you might be able to plan to lessen the likely amount payable or consider life time planning together with your Will. A professional advisor can assist you with this planning and your family might inherit significantly more from you than if you had not planned ahead. You can also plan to protect assets under the terms of your Will to ensure that as much as possible passes onto your chosen beneficiaries.
You should also consider creating a Lasting Power of Attorney either for Property and Financial Affairs, or Health and Welfare, or indeed both. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document under which you can appoint a person(s) to deal with your financial affairs or health and welfare matters either because you want or need them to (in the case of your financial affairs ) or because you need them to (in the case of your health and welfare matters).
It will give peace of mind to both you and your family to know that, if you are no longer able to make decisions or need help, you had the foresight to enter into a Lasting Power of Attorney to appoint an Attorney of your choice to step in and assist should you need it.
By having appointed Attorneys they will be able to assist you should you need help with your care, for example by being able to put arrangements in hand on your behalf, such as arranging for care at home or in a residential setting, as well as making the necessary arrangements for payment of that care. This can be of great help at what can be a difficult time when you will need support.
Jo Wild, Associate in the Wills and Trusts department
*Previously printed in Stamford Living