Well done! By finding this article you are taking the first steps to putting your family first after your passing. Thinking about what happens after death is not easy or comfortable for most of us, but by following our will and estate planning checklist, you will be making sure those you care for are looked after when you die.
Estate planning can be a complex and confusing legal area, so we have put together this easy-to-follow guide to the basics, so you can have confidence and knowledge on everything you require.
Anyone over the age of 18 can make a Will. There are several key points which need to be covered so give some thought to the following:
Who will be the executor of my estate?
The executors are the people who will be responsible for enacting your wishes, winding up your estate and distributing your property. Typically married partners and people in settled relationships will appoint their partner, followed by their children, then close relatives. You can appoint professional executors on your behalf, but this will incur a cost. Remember to ask the people you propose to make executors, they must be willing to take on the role. Executors can also be beneficiaries of your Will.
Who will look after my children if I die?
If you haven’t made a Will, Social Services will make the decision as to who will be the guardian of your children until they reach the age of 18. To avoid this, it is important you appoint a guardian in your Will. Guardians should ideally be of a similar age to the parents. If appointing older guardians, then make sure you review their suitability at regular intervals. For younger people, appointing guardians for your children is often the most important reason to make a will.
Unless the guardians are a couple, do not appoint joint guardians. Typically appointing both grandmothers is a recipe for disputes. On the face of it they get on, but would they if they had joint guardianship of the children? Whom do they live with? What type of discipline do they get? Which church do they go to? The list is endless. The last thing you want is to risk your children being the centre of a dispute when they are already unsettled and grieving.
If you appoint a guardian, make sure you discuss this in advance with them, make sure they want the job and have the ability to do so.
If you have a child with a disability or special needs, then call us today to discuss the specialist provisions that you need to put into place.
Does my partner inherit everything automatically?
If you haven’t made a Will and live in England or Wales and have an estate worth less than £250,000, the surviving husband, wife or civil partner will inherit all of the estate. Complications arise when you are not married, have an estate in excess of £250,000, or have children from a previous relationship.
The myth of the common law husband or wife. Lots of people refer to their long term partner as my common law husband or wife. Unfortunately this counts for nothing when you die! Without a valid will, unmarried partners cannot inherit anything from each other.
If you are unmarried and living with a partner and wish to discuss your Will requirements further, please contact us directly so we can advice you on the best route forward.
What happens to my pets when I’m gone?
Dave the tortoise could outlive you! Make a provision for your treasured family pets in your Will. You can appoint carers for them and even set aside a legacy payment to provide for their needs.
Where do I store my will?
A will is only valid if it is in writing and signed. It must be the original document as copies are not acceptable. Make sure your Will is securely stored and that your executors know where it is, as you will not be here to tell them where to find your Will. UK Legal Storage are part of the Will and Probate Services Group and store Wills and other important legal documents from £2.75 a month. Take a look at the UK Legal Storage website for more information on this service.
What happens if you are still alive but unable to make decisions? According to alzheimers.org.uk 2 million people in the UK will be suffering with Dementia by 2051, with 225,000 developing alzheimers this year. You could find yourself at the mercy of the Courts or your Local Authority who will take charge of making decisions on your behalf. Banks can (and do) restrict even joint accounts on loss of capacity of a single holder, so why take the chance?
The good news is there is a really easy way to retain control – make Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA). LPA’s mean that the key decisions about your finances and your care are made by your family or others that you trust.
There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney, a Health and Welfare LPA and a Property and Financial LPA. The Health and Welfare LPA allows the person you name as attorney to make decisions about things like medical care and consent, daily routine and where you live. While a Property and Financial Affairs LPA allows your loved ones to make decisions about your money, tax and bills, manage your bank accounts, property, investments, pension and benefits.
Again, as per your Will, the LPA must be kept safe as only the original, registered and signed copy is legally valid.
A trust is a simple legal mechanism that sets assets aside from other assets for a specific purpose. If you have a business, a vulnerable child or relative, a pension, life insurance or if you are in a second relationship then a chat with a trusts advisor could open your eyes to significant Tax and other benefits. There are several types of trust available including Tax Planning, Vulnerable People Trusts and Trusts for Property and Assets. Trusts are not for everyone so it is best to talk to us directly so we can advice you on the options depending on your circumstances.
Thank you for reading our Will and Estate Planning Checklist, hopefully you now have a clearer idea of the options available and the things you need to think about. If you would like some more advice on WillPlanning, LPA’s or Trusts, contact us or call 01778 752 861.
This post originally appears on our headquarters website www.will-probate.co.uk and shared amongst our regional websites.