With the coronavirus (Covid-19) still relentlessly wreaking its devastation across the globe, the feeling of helplessness felt by all is as pervasive as it is inevitable.
There are though, some things you can do to make you feel more in control, including giving thought to how you would like your affairs to be handled, and how your loved ones should be provided for if you pass away or become too ill to work.
1. Make or update your will
If you want your property and assets to be distributed according to your wishes, it is imperative to leave a will. Without one, you will die ‘intestate’ and your assets and property will be distributed according to the UK’s strict intestacy laws – which may not be as you intend.
Leaving a will enables you to provide for your loved ones and lift the stress from them which dying intestate might inflict. You can state in your will who you would like to look after your children after you are gone and who will be the executors of your estate. You can also stipulate what should happen to your digital assets and ensure your chosen executors have access to all your accounts.
It is important to seek legal advice when drawing up or amending a will to ensure all the legal requirements have been observed and that your will is valid and accurately reflects your wishes. A specialist private client solicitor can also ensure the amount of inheritance tax payable on your estate is kept to a minimum.
2. Include a Letter of wishes
There are certain matters which you may want your loved ones to be aware of that do not belong in your will, such as requirements for your funeral, instructions to your chosen guardians on how your children should be raised, or an explanation of why someone has been left out of your will. One way of expressing these sentiments and any guidance you want to provide is in a letter of wishes. You can include anything you like in this document but you must ensure it does not conflict with your will.
3. What is a lasting power of attorney?
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document which lets you choose people you trust to be your attorneys to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. There are two types of LPA:
- Property and affairs: this covers decisions about your finances and property, like managing investments, paying your bills, or selling your property; and
- Health and welfare: this covers decisions about where you live, day-to-day care, and medical treatment.
A LPA allows you to stipulate in writing how you would like things to be run while you are out of action, providing guidance to your attorneys and placing any restrictions on them you feel are required.
You can choose family members, friends or professionals to be your attorneys, as long as they are over 18, have mental capacity and are not bankrupt or subject to a debt relief order.
4. What is a living will?
A living will (or ‘advance decision’) is a legally binding document which allows you to put in writing your wishes about medical treatment if you lack capacity.
The people caring for you must follow your instructions, but you cannot use them to demand specific treatment or for your life to be ended. The rules on advance decisions and how they interact with your LPA are complex, so again it is best to get advice from a legal expert to ensure your wishes are accurately reflected.
5. Inheritance tax advice
Rising house prices mean that more and more people each year are becoming liable to pay inheritance tax (IHT) when they die. IHT is currently charged at 40 per cent, but your solicitor can suggest many ways that the burden can be reduced.
At Warners Solicitors, we can offer a fully digitalized service from the comfort of your own home. We can take your instructions over the telephone or internet, then our expert wills and probate lawyers will draft your documents and send them to you by email or post. All you will need to do is have your signature witnessed by two independent people who meet the criteria (we will advise you who is eligible to be a witness).
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.