The Covid-19 pandemic has taught all of us that we never know what’s around the corner. It has shown that lives can change in an instant and that there are things we have little control over.
1. Review your current arrangements.
There has never been a better time than now to check that the arrangements you have in place are still up-to-date, meet your wishes and protect your assets. If they don’t, then it’s time to update them.
2. Make a will.
Some reports suggest that as many as two-thirds of all Britons do not have a will. But it remains the simplest, most certain way of ensuring that your estate – your assets and possessions – goes to the people you want after your death. Drawing up a will means that your wishes become legally binding and prevents the vast majority of disputes over your estate. It’s also the most important document you will sign – so think long and hard about what you want to happen and seek expert legal advice to ensure everything is done correctly.
3. Make a Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows you to nominate someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself. Many people assume they are specifically for older people who may be living with Alzheimer’s or similar conditions, but they can prove invaluable to people of all ages.
There are two types of LPA – one covering property and financial affairs and one covering health and welfare issues. Whilst the health LPA tends to come into effect when you lose mental capacity, the property and financial power LPA can be exercised with your consent if required. So, if you cannot get out of the house to sign an important document because you are self-isolating, you could authorise your nominated person to sign on your behalf.
4. Make a General Power of Attorney
A General Power of Attorney is a good short-term document to allow someone to act on your behalf whilst you retain your mental capacity but are otherwise incapacitated. This might be because you are shielding, caring for a loved-one in lockdown or self-isolating and comes into effect as soon as it is signed.
5. Advance Decision – A living will
Do your family, loved ones and nearest and dearest know how you would wish to be treated if you became very ill? An Advance Decision – sometimes referred to as a Living Will – allows you to set out how you wish to be treated or cared for in a legally-binding document, meaning you have one less thing to worry about. It needs careful consideration when being drawn up to ensure it does not come into conflict with any LPA, so good legal advice is essential here.
6. Tax planning
Very few of us enjoy the prospect of the taxman getting his hands on large parts of our estate and preventing those we love from inheriting it. That is why we strongly advise people to get sound legal advice on tax planning and Inheritance Tax. Good legal advice can show you how to alter the structure of your will, or use lifetime tax planning processes, to allow as much of your money as possible to go where you want it to.
7. Putting all your affairs in order
When you make a will it’s a good opportunity to ensure all your affairs are in order. This is a good time to collate all the documentation your family may need when you are no longer with them, put in place arrangements for passing on undrawn pensions and review your investments and life insurance. Your solicitor can talk through all of these important matters with you.
8. Create an ICE document
This is an easy way to let your loved ones know where to find things In Case of Emergency (ICE). You can use it to tell them who your solicitor, accountant and financial advisers are and where to find important documents such as your will. There is no prescribed form for this document and it can prove very useful to loved ones who are trying to deal with your affairs on your behalf.
9. Talk to your family
It’s easy to put off conversations about what might happen in the future, but they really do help everyone. Just speaking to your family about your wishes and the steps you have taken to put them into place can be immensely reassuring for everybody concerned. Let them know what you have done and where they can get the information you need and everyone will have added peace of mind.
10. Get legal advice
This is far too important an area to cut corners. There may be any number of websites offering cheap wills and online deals, but you want to know that everything has been done by the book and is legally secure. Good legal advice – from respected, experienced law firms such as FBC Manby Bowdler – does just that and can ensure that your wishes are followed to the letter. What better way to enjoy real peace of mind?