15th August 2016

(Ghost)busting Succession Planning Myths: 3 Ways to Avoid Being Slimed

The new Ghostbusters film has caused quite a stir. Amongst all of the spooks and scares that the feature provides, there are loads of ghosts who are floating around New York with “unfinished business” that they didn’t clear before their time had come. It wouldn’t surprise us if a lot had come back regretting their lack of effective Succession Planning!

Succession Planning is the process of planning for what should happen after your own death and is something that can really haunt your family if not done properly. So, in honor of the 3rd Ghostbusters film, here are 3 easy ways to avoid being slimed and leaving as little “unfinished business” as possible!

  1. The Great Unknown (leaving more questions than answers)

Ghost Trap: The time after a death is a difficult time for any family, however it’s worse if you weren’t organised with your affairs during your lifetime.  There can be immediate questions about fundamental things such as what kind of funeral you wanted – which can cause a real problem if you do not have immediate family members who would know the answers.  And even after that, your relatives could still be spending months going through bin-bags of old papers without knowing what information matters and what can be thrown out.   They may even give up and spend your money getting Derek Acorah to bring you back to start giving answers – an altogether less popular franchise!

How to avoid being slimed: While we can’t all be accountants like Louis Tully in our spare time, a big part of this is about keeping relatively up-to-date records of your finances in one place (“the box” or “the folder” are the common ones in my experience!).  Technology has the potential to make this either a lot easier or a lot harder – maintaining a spreadsheet of your finances gives a great at-a-glance guide, but if your records are all scattered on different websites and hidden behind different passwords, then make sure someone knows where and how to start looking when the time comes!

  1. The Proton Pack has been breached! (Having a shoddy or out of date Will)

Ghost Trap: Having a solid Will in place gives you a great feeling of security, as you know what is to happen after you’re away.  However that ‘security’ quickly turns to ‘complacency’ if you don’t make the effort to regularly review your Will.  It is very common for named executors or beneficiaries to have died or fallen out of favour, but if you don’t update your Will then you either have the wrong people in charge (if you’ve fallen out) or no one in charge (if the executors themselves have died), or more obviously your money ends up going to completely the wrong people.

How to avoid being slimed: You should check your Will every few years as a matter of course, but also bear it in mind when there are ‘landmark’ events within your family:  whether that is births, deaths, marriages, divorces, separations, retirement, disability – there are many things that can change, so you need to make sure your Will keeps track. Asking “What if..?” questions are a great way to stress-test a Will, by ensuring that you have a reasonable plan in place regardless of what happens in the future.  Above all else, consulting a solicitor with experience with Wills is a great way to make sure you’re not missing anything obvious.

  1. I ain’t afraid of no ghost (opening the door to Legal Rights claims)

Ghost Trap: It is not unusual if you want to reduce the inheritance of un-favoured children, or even to cut them out entirely.  Regardless of why you want to do this, and it’s not always about criticism towards that child, a lot of people simply change their Will and leave the matter there.   However, this completely ignores the law of “legal rights” – the share of your estate that any surviving child (or spouse) is entitled to claim as an alternative to what you leave them in your Will.

Naturally, if the value of the claim is worth more than what you leave them in your Will – and particularly if the Will leaves them nothing – then that child will be tempted to make the claim, regardless of how things were during your lifetime.  Depending on what you have in your estate, that might mean they receive a Stay-Puft sized claim, rather than the dancing toaster that you had in mind for them.

How to avoid being slimed: Legal rights claims are based on “moveable property”, and so obvious strategies are to reduce the value of your moveable estate by either (a) giving away money to your preferred beneficiaries, or (b) converting it into “heritable property” by for example, investing in a property.  However it’s not always straightforward, particularly where you are a business owner, so specialist advice can help avoid creating a real river of slime!

“Who you gonna call?”

Blackadders’ Private Client Department are available to help with all your worldly (and other-wordly) concerns.  We are also available to travel to see clients at home where they cannot make it into our office – though we are still saving up for our own Ecto-1!

Stewart Dunbar
Associate Solicitor – Private Client
@LawyerStewartD
www.blackadders.co.uk

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