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It’s midway through January and many of us are trying to stick to our latest New Year resolution. Our household has finally consumed the mountain of cheese and biscuits and our attention has now turned to getting fit (again!), eating healthily (again!) and cutting out the wine (well maybe just one on a Saturday night…!).
We all make New Year resolutions but how many of us actually stick to them…? Here are 3 important resolutions you should definitely try to keep this year:
It is common for people to put off estate planning. A joint study carried out by The Co-operative Funeralcare and The Co-operative Legal Services in October 2015 suggests that 60% of adults in the UK don’t have a Will and therefore could be at risk of having nobody appropriate to control their estate if they die. Having a Will lets you decide who you wish as your executors and can give clear direction of how you wish your estate to be dealt with and under what terms.
If you do already have a Will in place, when was the last time you reviewed it? If your circumstances have changed, does it still reflect your wishes? Do you need to update your executors or beneficiaries? We would recommend you review your Will approximately every 5 years and also following major life events such as buying your first home; moving in with your other half; marriage; separation; divorce; bereavement; having children; retirement and receiving an inheritance.
It is also very important that co-habitants put Wills in place as there are no automatic rights for co-habitants. Your partner does not have any definite rights to your estate. It will be at the Court’s discretion as to what your partner will be entitled to receive. This could be nothing at all, or anything up to the maximum amount that a spouse would be entitled to receive on your death.
- Check your title deeds
When updating your Will, you should also have the title deeds to your property checked if held in joint names to ensure that they are in line with the terms of your Will. If the title is held by way of a survivorship destination e.g “to Mr and Mrs and to the survivor of them” then on the first death, the house automatically passes to the survivor. You may wish to consider altering your title so it is held in equal one half shares e.g “to Mr and Mrs equally between them pro indiviso”.
In that case, on the first death, that share of the property is dealt with in accordance with the Will. By making this simple change and including appropriate provisions in the Will, it could provide some protection of the asset from care costs.
If you are capable of managing your own affairs, you should consider putting a Power of Attorney in place in the event that you lose this capability perhaps due to illness or old age. Putting a Power of Attorney in place is quick, straightforward and relatively inexpensive and allows you to appoint someone (or more than one person) you trust, commonly a relative or friend, to manage your affairs on your behalf. If you already have a Power of Attorney in place, you should ensure that it is up to date.
If you do not have a Power of Attorney and for whatever reason become incapable of acting, assets can be frozen and welfare decisions cannot be made. Spouses, civil partners, co-habitants and children as next of kin have no power to make decisions on your behalf. A family member or local authority will have to apply to the Sheriff Court for a Guardianship Order and it is the Sheriff’s decision whether the person named in the application is suitable to take on the role as Guardian. Involving the Sheriff Court is an expensive and lengthy process, which can easily be avoided.
A Power of Attorney can be put in place to manage your finances only or your care and welfare only, although it is common to combine these powers in one document. You can appoint different people to deal with your finances and welfare, if you wish but we would suggest to always appoint a substitute attorney.
Planning for the future is essential regardless of age and wealth and if you take a few hours now, it will save your family a lot of unnecessary stress and expense. These New Year resolutions may seem daunting but once done, will give you absolute peace of mind.
What more could you want from a resolution?
Associate Solicitor – Private Client
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