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Five practical tips for preparing your clients for later life

Clients who are moving into their later years are likely to be considering the best structure for their pensions and retirement investments and (hopefully) making or updating their Will. As part of this process some straightforward preparations can be made now so that dealing with matters in later life will be easier for your clients and their families. Here are five of the most important, but often quite simple actions, which can be taken.

1. Joint accounts

As advisers will be aware cash accounts in joint names pass by survivorship on death. It is therefore a good idea, particularly if one partner receives the lion’s share of the joint income, for a joint cash account to be held so that on the death of one partner the surviving partner has easy access to funds in the period before probate is obtained. We have recently been experiencing considerable delays in obtaining probate and, while we hope that that these may reduce in the future, a cash buffer is good planning for unforeseen eventualities.

2. The less popular lasting power of attorney

Many people have been persuaded of the merits of drawing up a LPA for their finances but LPAs for health and welfare purposes are less popular and may not be suggested by those advising on finances. They do, however, fulfil a vital role in giving trusted people power to make decisions that may be crucial for your client’s future welfare, such as where they live if they become incapable of deciding that for themselves. Most people would prefer that decisions of that nature are made by their closest family rather than by a social worker with no prior knowledge of their beliefs and feelings. Health and Welfare LPAs can also be used to indicate whether your client would refuse life sustaining medical treatment in certain circumstances.

3. Letters of Wishes supporting LPAs

Clients may be familiar with the concept of a letter of wishes supplementing a Will or a trust deed but these can also be very useful supplements to LPAs. In a letter of wishes clients can set out where they would like to live, how they would like to spend their time, providing details of their likes and dislikes, beliefs and values so that their attorneys can make decisions in their best interests. In this letter your client could indicate a care home they would like to reside in if it became necessary for them to move into residential care in the future and, in connection with a financial LPA, provide details of advisers and assets.

4. Keeping records of assets and finances

Ultimately a client’s executors will be required to collect in the assets of the client’s estate and distribute them in accordance with their Will. Before that time attorneys may be required to manage finances. In either case the task will be made a lot easier if clients retain details of their assets and liabilities in an easily accessible form. Access to a laptop may be essential for the attorneys or executors and many digital assets could be missed altogether unless their existence is noted. Some digital assets will also require passwords for access and it may be advisable for your clients to prepare a record of these to place in secure storage with their Will. We can provide a digital assets memorandum if this would be helpful.

Details of utility providers, account numbers and insurers would also be a great help to your client’s executors and attorneys.

5. Personal effects

Arguments over personal effects are common after bereavement. If your clients are clear about which beneficiary is to receive which item this could lessen the chances of a conflict.  This could be dealt with by a memorandum referred to in your client’s Will or some clients deal with this task directly. One example is a system of coloured stickers placed on items with each colour indicating a particular beneficiary. Another way of dealing with the distribution of personal effects is for the children to take turns to choose an item with the order of choice perhaps dependent on age.

It would be helpful for clients to draw attention to items of particular value and keep an insurance valuation of any items in a readily accessible place.

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