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8 Simple Estate Planning Tips

Why do people ignore Estate Planning?

For some reason, most folk seem to think that accidents, illnesses and death don’t happen to people under 85.   A moments though would dismiss this as daft. If you can’t quite do that, then read this as if you are worrying about your parents, or your children.

But no one wants to anticipate things going wrong, after all, that would mean loss of massive amounts of work for the Courts and for Social Services (and lawyers!)   And we all want to make sure we put ourselves under the control of the Courts advised by Social Services don’t we?

No? I am surprised – the overwhelming majority of people vote against their family having any control when (not if) things go wrong.   They feel that Social Services and GPs have far more knowledge of what they would want, and are happy to leave things in their hands. After all, the family can always go to Court and spend thousands (if not tens of thousands) trying (and often failing) to get the authorities to do what they think you would have wanted. Why would you want to take precautions?

On the off chance that you might think it wise to have you legal affairs and other estate planning in good order, here are a few tips.

Estate Planning Tip 1 – death benefits.

If you have any insurances, are a member of a pension scheme, death in service, have paid up pensions and many other sorts of savings and investments, have you appointed beneficiaries to receive any death benefit etc? Sometime you can’t, but as often as not, a simple letter will point them in the right direction. Other times, a trust may be needed – or may already exist.   But unless you say what you want AND keep it up to date, the Trustees of the various schemes will do what they think is right or the law demands.   In many cases, ex-husbands and wives may get a windfall!

Estate Planning Tip 2 – if you lose mental capacity (the ability to make decisions).

Many people have Medical Directives of one sort or another. But they only deal with medical matters, they give the family no rights over where you live for example. To be effective, you should contact us to replace them with Lasting Powers of Attorney Health and Welfare.

On the financial side, a general power of attorney ceases to be valid on loss of mental capacity.   Enduring Powers of Attorney are fine, though they can’t be changed, only replaced with Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Powers of Attorney. Lost of them are written in such a way that they can’t be used until you have lost mental capacity, and generally speaking, we think that is a bad thing. Many folk wish to reduce the admin burden as they get older which leads me to:

Estate Planning Tip 3 – Beware of Joint Accounts.

This is a brilliant way of upsetting your family and making sure they fall out after you die. Any money that you put into a conventional joint account will automatically belong to the joint account holder when you die.   So you add your only daughter, one of your five children, to your bank account in the wrong way, go into care, sell the house, put the money into the joint account then die. Who gets the lot? The one on the account with you – the rest can whistle, as what your Will says is irrelevant, the joint account passes automatically outside the Will.

Estate Planning Tip 4 – Guardians.

I don’t think much of the Guardianship Law in the UK, but the least you can do, ideally before you get pregnant, is to update your Will to include suitable guardians, in case you both die, and make sure others are aware of your choice. It is crucial to keep you choice under regular review. In fact, it is important to review your Will regularly which is why we offer our Peace of Mind Service.

Estate Planning Tip 5 – Business.

If you are involved in the running of a business, you need to contact us to do as much as you can to ensure the tax efficient survival of your business as possible. Not to mention keeping your staff in work! Our Tax Barrister specialises in these issues and in:

Estate Planning Tip 5 – Inheritance Tax.

If you are in the Inheritance Tax bands or might become so through inheritance or property values, the earlier you plan, the less the tax burden will be.

Estate Planning Tip 6 – Living Together.

This can be a nightmare if you split up or one of you dies. Things need to be formalised, even if it is to confirm in writing that you are not partners and each pay your own way. We can see lots of compo firms targeting this area in the future, so contact us and get sorted.

If you are in a permanent relationship, just not married or civil registered, remember that non-family members have few rights without resorting to Court and contact us.

Estate Planning Tip 7 – Single People.

Over 18? YOU ARE ON YOU OWN. The Courts are in charge if anything goes wrong, not your family or your (unmarried) life partner, none of who have any control. Even if you don’t have much else, you should have Lasting Powers of Attorney and a basic cheap Last Will as a minimum.

Estate Planning Tip 8 – Problems.

Many families have irresponsible members, members on benefits, disabled folk, members in rocky marriages. Some are unfortunate enough to have children they never want to speak to again.   Sound Legal Planning will go a long way to ensure that your wishes are followed, and Court action after your death in avoided.

If you get what we’re trying to say here, the number is above, or use the contact form and ask for the Estate Planning Team.

If not, we all wish you the best of luck – you will need it!

I had better go and do some real work now for people who appreciate that there are issues to be addressed 😉