Our trusted legal partners, Law and Life, have put together the following straightforward guidance that will help with your future planning, providing vital reassurance. If you have any questions, you can reach them on their free Advice Line:
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It's not required by law to make a Will but there are numerous advantages in doing so. Our trusted partners, Law and Life, have provided the following brief overview on the main reasons to make a Will.
Your 'estate' is your property, investments, personal belongings and any other assets you own at the time of your death.
Making a Will is much simpler than you may think. It's a painless process that will ensure your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes, leaving you assured that proper provision has been made for those you feel should benefit. Beneficiaries may include your loved ones, family, friends and the good causes you have supported such as charities and community organisations.
If you do not make a Will your estate will be distributed in accordance with the laws on intestacy and this may result in family, friends and charities missing out altogether or not receiving what you would like them to.
This is particularly relevant to unmarried couples, or same sex couples who have not entered into a civil partnership. Under current law, on intestacy unmarried couples do not inherit from their partner. Making a Will gives you control and is the only way to ensure that the people you choose will be provided for in the event of your death.
An executor is the person responsible for dealing with your assets and liabilities when you die and ensuring it is passed on to the beneficiaries named in your Will. This will leave you confident in the knowledge that someone you trust will ensure your affairs will be handled in accordance with your wishes and your family will be left with clear directions on how to deal with your estate.
By making a Will you can choose who you wish to appoint as your executor. This person is often a family member or close friend, but can be a professional executor such as a solicitor, bank or building society. Before choosing that person you should ask them whether they are agreeable to being your executor when you die and make sure they understand what is involved - see the Parfitt Cresswell ‘Executors Duties’ help sheet for further information.
If you do not have a Will you will die ‘intestate’ which means that you will have no control who will administer your estate after you have died.
This enables you to minimise the amount of tax your estate pays on your death.
A well-drafted Will covers estate planning if you have a taxable estate. The current (2018) inheritance tax threshold impacts estates valued at £325,000 and over and tax is payable at 40% of any amount over £325,000. There are a number of exceptions to this with the most common one being gifts to spouses and charities which are exempt.
There are also a number of additional steps that can be taken through good estate planning which may reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable when you die - leaving as much of the estate to pass on to your loved ones as possible.
You can ensure your pets are looked after and provided for when you are no longer there for them.
Your Will can appoint family members, friends or a charitable organisation to look after your beloved pets after your death.
You should ask the person or organisation you wish to appoint whether they are agreeable to accepting your pets when your die.
The RSPCA’s 'Home for Life' scheme allows you to register your pet when you make a Will and then you have peace of mind knowing that your pet will be cared for after your death. There are similar schemes with other charities such as the Cat’s Protection League and the Dog’s Trust Canine Care.
When you make a Will you have an opportunity to take some simple steps that will make dealing with your estate after your death easier, saving time and money. For example, ensuring that all your investments are clearly listed in a schedule and your paperwork is kept together will make it simpler for your executor to find and avoids the risk of assets being lost because they were not located on your death.
Another simple step is stating your beneficiaries’ addresses in your Will – this will save time and the expense of instructing a professional to locate them.
When you make a Will, you know your affairs will be dealt with after you die. But what happens before then if you suddenly become unable to make decisions for yourself? Having a lasting power of attorney (LPA) will protect you and make everything much simpler for your family and loved ones.
You can decide who you want to act as your attorney in the event you’re no longer able to make decisions for yourself.
If you lose mental capacity without having an LPA in place, the Court of Protection could award decision-making responsibilities to anyone — including a relative or associate who either doesn’t know you well, whom you don’t believe has your best interests at heart, or simply someone you wouldn’t choose for yourself.
If you make an LPA for property and financial affairs and register it with the Office of the Public Guardian, your attorney can help you if you ask them to. They cannot act without your permission — but if things become overwhelming, you can ask for help from someone you trust, and who has authority to act for you. Your attorney would only be able to make decisions for you if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.
When you appoint an attorney, they cannot just do whatever they want with your property and finances. They must act in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act 2005. If anyone is concerned about their conduct, they can report your attorney to the Office of the Public Guardian, who will investigate. If necessary, they’ll remove your attorney from power.
You can give decision-making powers to several different people if you want, who can make decisions together or separately. This protects you should one of your attorneys die — and also gives you extra peace of mind that they’ll be acting in your best interests. If you only want one attorney to have responsibility but you’d like to have someone in reserve in case something happens to your original attorney, you can nominate a successor to take over if it becomes appropriate for them to do so.
Without an LPA, your family — even your spouse — cannot make medical decisions on your behalf.
Nor can they make financial decisions unless they’re named on accounts. If you do become mentally incapacitated without an LPA, your family and loved ones will have to apply for a deputyship — which can become very expensive.
There is no blanket deputyship to cover everything, so someone would need to apply separately each time a decision had to be made — which costs from £850 per application to the Court of Protection. Fees go up if there are complications like objections from other family members. There are also court fees of £400. Getting a deputyship can also take up to six months, which can cause huge problems if decisions need to be made urgently. With a registered LPA, your attorney can make decisions for you straight away.
Think of an LPA as an insurance policy. You hope you’ll never have to use it, but if you do, it could make all the difference to your life, and the lives of your loved ones.
LPAs are not as difficult or expensive to make as you might think— and they could save you and your loved ones a lot of money, time, and stress.
"LPAs are not as difficult or expensive to make as you might think— and they could save you and your loved ones a lot of money, time, and stress. "
Law and Life at Parfitt Cresswell helped us produce this Q&A series looking at Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). If you're in the UK you can speak to Law and Life free on 0800 999 4437.