New Year, New Will (and Don’t Forget Your LPA!)

 In Helen Webster, Hilary Sisson, Jill Waddington, Powers of Attorney, Ridley & Hall Solicitors, Victoria Maude, Wills

So the decorations are down, the diets have started (and possibly finished!) and your New Year’s resolutions have been made. But when you were thinking about the coming year ahead, was getting your personal affairs in order on your list of priorities?

Many of us seem to make the same resolutions each year, such as learning something new, get fitter and healthier or give up smoking – generally things that would improve our quality of life. But does anyone think about the longer term?

Having reflected on the year just passed, and looking forward to the one ahead, the reality is that none of us truly know what the future holds. It is unlikely that many people will have thought about who their estate would go to if they died, what would happen if they lost their mental capacity in later life or how their affairs would be managed if they were unable to do it for themselves. But this is exactly the sort of thing that you should be thinking about, and not just because it is the New Year.

By making a Will, you lose the uncertainty of where your assets might otherwise end up, as you get to specify who you would like to inherit from you and what they should receive. Without a Will, your estate would be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which is a list of beneficiaries set out by law, starting with close family, but ending up with the Crown. Your estate may therefore pass to people who you would not wish to inherit from you, or it may even end up with people who you have never met! With modern family structures including unmarried couples, second families, step-children and half-siblings, it is more important than ever to legally set out who should administer your estate after your death and who should inherit your assets.

By forward planning, it is also possible to mitigate inheritance tax or even negate it altogether. Inheritance tax is charged at 40% on assets valued over £325,000, and with the value of property having risen, the tax charge on some estates can be substantial, so again it is worth having considered this and drafting a Will accordingly.

Whilst considering what will happen to your estate on death is a vital exercise, it is equally important to think about what would happen if you became physically or mentally incapable of dealing with your financial affairs in later life. Putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney whilst you still have mental capacity to do so can save time, money and distress to your friends and family in the long term. If you did lose your mental capacity and had not put a power of attorney in place, your funds could not be accessed or managed without a court order, which can be a long and complex process, and again someone who you may not necessarily have chosen to manage your affairs may end up doing so. It is also possible to make a Lasting Power of Attorney in relation to your health and welfare decisions, so that your chosen attorney can stipulate what care you should receive, give instructions as to your treatment and have a say in where you should live, in the event that you were not mentally capable of making these decisions for yourself.

These matters need careful consideration and any of our specialists from the Wills, Probate & Trusts department will be happy to discuss your circumstances and requirements, and help you put in place the necessary documentation. We prepare Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney on a fixed fee basis, advising you at our initial appointment what the cost will be to give you added peace of mind.

So why not make a further resolution for 2016? Contact us on 01484 538421 and get your affairs in order so you can then get on with living life to the full… on or off the diet!