When to review your Legal Plans…
Because your life changes, so must your legal planning. Sometimes the Law or Tax changes in unexpected ways which can mean a very recent Review is suddenly out of date. The recent changes in Inheritance Tax won’t affect everyone, but developments in Homeowners Wills will apply to more than half the population.
Whilst most firms just tell you to review things every few years, at The Probate Department Ltd solicitors, we offer an economical ongoing Peace of Mind Service to help you keep things under review at least yearly. You also receive discounts on updates and new planning as well as up to 30 minutes free advice each year.
While this review is important, there are certain life events that should trigger an immediate review of your legal Planning.
- You reach the age of 18. At this stage your parents generally have no rights whatever (without a Court order) to manage your financial affairs or welfare should you for some reason become unable to do so. Think Michael Schumacher and skiing or any number of people who have motoring accidents, serious illnesses or breakdowns. Your precious child is now under the control of the Court of Protection, not you.
- You start living with someone – whether as a flat share or as your “other half.” The consequences and confusions of death, illness or just it not working out can be hard to unravel. Contacting us to regularise the situation through a Cohabitation Agreement and ongoing review is prudent. Remember, after 2 years, your partner may make a claim against your estate under the Inheritance (Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
- You have found the right person and are planning on marrying – when you do marry/civil register your previous Last Will & Testament will immediately be cancelled by the Law, unless it has been written specifically in contemplation of that marriage. You may also want to consider revising your Lasting Powers of Attorney to reflect the new situation. If there is a big disparity in wealth or likely inheritances, then a prenuptial agreement should be put in place, and those from whom you may inherit will need to reconsider their own Legal Planning if they are keen to keep money in the family – as half of marriages don’t work out. Some of those that do work will end with a death, which may well result in one side of the family being cut out. Remarriage after death or divorce can further cut the ability of inheritances to follow the bloodline as originally intended. There are solutions to all of these problems, just contact us.
- Separation should immediately trigger a review, as even without a Will, your soon to be ex-spouse will still inherit most or all of your estate (unless it can be proved they murdered you, of course!) under the Rules of Intestacy – and your current Legal Planning will probably leave everything in their hands anyway.
- You have a new baby on the way. Most would say wait until the baby arrives, but that could be too late. Ideally, your Will should take children and Guardians into account before you start trying for a family. Things can go wrong, accidents and illnesses don’t stop happening because you are pregnant. We believe in flexible planning, and that it shouldn’t normally be that you have to rewrite a pair of Wills for each new baby – or grandchild come to that.
- Blended families are pretty standard now, with children from more than one relationship. All too often, too basic Legal Planning means that one “side” of the family “wins” on a death and the other loses out totally. It is usually just lack of anyone offering sound advice, and even close families don’t want to voluntarily share an unexpectedly large inheritance with others who may be morally entitled, but are not even related.
- A family member dies. If a family member dies that was named as one of your beneficiaries, guardians, executor, agent, etc. you will need to update your estate plan to remove and possibly replace them. Also you may want to name a secondary in case the primary dies. You also need to consider whether the folk given these roles are still able to comfortably fulfil them, or whether the roles need to be re-assigned to (perhaps) the next generation down.
- When you move, revisit the points in 7, especially Guardians. No one usually wants to be taken away from their school and friends and moved to somewhere which used to be home many years before if their parents die.
- Changes to Tax Laws are becoming more common, unpredictable and radical. For those whose estates may face an Inheritance Bill on death, our Peace of Mind Service is a godsend, as is the ability to talk to a solicitor dual qualified as a Tax barrister.
- You win the lottery, inherit a significant amount of money, your bitcoins or shares soar in value etc. Your Legal Planning will need to be reviewed to protect the family and minimise tax.
- As many people become better off, they consider lifetime gifting and Inheritance Tax planning – both are more complex than they seem, and people often gift money to people who don’t really need it, and end up paying 40% Inheritance Tax before it gets down to a generation that needs help getting established. Not that we will tell you who to give it too – but we do try to make clients think their plans through carefully before we set them up.
- Obviously, as soon as the article was published, my colleague pointed out that I had omitted any mention of TRUSTS which can reduce the ongoing burden of IHT, keep money in the bloodline, protect business people, blended families, second marriages, cohabitation, means testing of beneficiaries and much more. Ask for our booklet.
I am sure you will think of lots of other events which should trigger a review, which is precisely why our Peace of Mind Service is set up to initiate discussions whenever they are needed, and avoid the worry that you will be charged for every little question when all it needs is a few minutes chat. If you are looking for a long-term relationship with a specialist solicitors firm, please get in touch.
You might also want to browse through some further information on legal planning HERE.