Nothing left to paint, nothing left to plant – but plenty left to plan!
Often matters such as Wills and lifetime planning are pushed to one side because ‘life gets in the way’, not forgetting the fact that they can often prompt difficult and uncomfortable questions.
During this unprecedented period, many people have extra time on their hands and it is a good opportunity to focus on the future and to ensure that your personal legal affairs are in order. This can be an intimidating prospect, but we will be on hand to help. Here are the three things you might want to think about.
Lasting powers of attorney
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that enables you to appoint someone to look after your affairs if you become unable to manage them yourself. This might be, for example because you become unwell or lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself following an accident. The setting up of an LPA is now considered to be as important as the making of a Will.
An LPA can be created to appoint someone to deal with your personal welfare, or your property and financial affairs. Creating an LPA is important because having a close relationship with someone, such as your spouse or child, does not, of itself, authorise that person to manage your personal affairs or to make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so.
On 26 May 2020, STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) published that only 5% of professionals who specialise in inheritance and estate planning have seen an increase in people setting up LPAs. Given that holidays have been cancelled, employees furloughed and social events postponed, it is perhaps surprising that not more of this freed-up time and headspace has been used to focus on lifetime planning matters. Whilst arranging for the documents to be properly witnessed at this time may present a practical difficulty, it is not insurmountable.
Generally speaking, if parents die while their child is still a minor then a guardian will need to be appointed to look after their child. Although there is a low probability of such an appointment being needed for most families, it is prudent for parents to record their wishes regarding the guardianship of their child. This is typically done within a Will.
Failing to record your wishes could mean that the Family Court will need to appoint a guardian in the absence of any steer from you. This could involve your partner, relative or friend having to make an application to the court so they can be granted authority to be recognised as a legal guardian. This process can take time and could even see your child(ren) being temporarily rehomed before an authority is granted.
Read more about appointing guardians for your children.
Married and unmarried partners
If a person dies without a Will, they are regarded as having died ‘intestate’. The intestacy provisions make sure spouses and civil partners receive something on your death, but this may not be as much as you would like. There may even be other people that you wish to benefit, so having a Will is by far the better option.
And the intestacy provisions for unmarried partners? Nil. This means that if your partner dies intestate, you will have to bring a claim in order to see any recognition from their estate.
It can come as a great shock to unmarried people to learn that they do not have the same intestacy rights as their married counterparts, even if they have been living with their partner for many years. Many people would like to see the law reformed in this regard, but such a reform is unlikely to happen any time soon. Having a Will in this scenario would not only save huge expense and stress after losing a loved one but would also provide comfort during your lifetime knowing that your wishes will be carried out following your death.
Read more about intestacy and unexpected inheritance tax bills.
Inheritance tax planning
The inheritance tax and estate planning regime is something that has been raised more frequently in recent years. The Office of Tax Simplification reviewed the position once more in their July 2019 report, passing their findings to the government and parliament.
There are inheritance tax savings that can be made by creating the right Will and/or taking advantage of all possible reliefs during your lifetime. We can help you start planning now, by setting up trusts during your lifetime and by building flexibility into your Will to create a long term plan that will see your estate better protected.
Read more about inheritance tax planning.
If you have any questions in relation to this article or lifetime planning generally, please do get in touch and speak to a member of our Private Client team.