If you make a proper estate plan, you will save your family untold stress and heartache, both in your later years after you’re gone. The truth is, there will come a time when you're not here anymore. If you live into your eighties, sadly there’s at least a one in four chance that you’ll lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.
That's not a pleasant thought to contemplate, which probably explains why about 66% of us never get around to creating an estate plan.
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is the way to take control of your long-term future, to make sure that your most importantwishes are respected, and that yours and your family’s financial security is protected.
Many of us mistakenly think that creating an estate plan simply means making a Will. Although a Will is essential to controlling how your assets are inherited after you’re gone, it's by no means the only consideration.
- What about your later years?
- What if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself?
- How will your finances be managed then?
- What would your preferences be about medical treatment and how you are looked after?
There are also certain assets that aren't affected by the contents of your Will: your pension is regarded as being outside of your estate for the purposes of your Will, and you need to make separate arrangements to ensure that your pension capital is passed on correctly. If you own your house jointly with your other half, your Will potentially has no effect on what happens to the house after you die, so you need to plan around this.
To make an estate plan you must ask yourself these questions:
- What stage of my life am I at now?
- Who do I care most about? Who am I responsible for? Who do I need to provide for, both throughout my life and after I'm gone?
- What resources do I have that my loved ones could fall back on if something happened to me?
- What potential problems do I need to protect myself and my family from?
- who should inherit what from me when I die?
Who needs to make an estate plan?
Arguably, everybody who cares about their family and wants to provide for them should make an estate plan. However, it’s sepecially essential that you make your estate plan if any of these issues are relevant to you:
- You're concerned about care home fees in later life, and the effects this may have on your children's inheritance;
- You’re a blended family, with children from previous relationships;
- You have a business with ongoing responsibility for staff, suppliers and customers;
- You have a buy-to-let portfolio;
- You have substantial or complicated assets.
What will your estate plan include?
It's entirely up to you, and it depends what you need to achieve. Typically, an estate plan will include one or more of the following:
- a Will, to determine how your assets are inherited in the event of your death, who will be putting your affairs in order, and who will look after your children if something happens to you before they grow up;
- a Declaration of Severance if you co-own your house with somebody else and you want to make sure that your share is inherited according to your will;
- a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs if you want to appoint someone who’ll take care of the practical aspects of your life if you are incapacitated;
- a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare if you want to control what decisions will be made about your care and medical treatment if you are incapacitated;
- a Living Will or Advance Directive if you want to ensure that your comfort and dignity are the main priorities in your final hours and days;
- Nomination Forms if you have pension assets and want to make sure that those assets are made available to specific loved ones in the event of your death;
- Having your life insurance policies “written in trust” if you want the proceeds to go directly to your family in the event of your death, without them having to wait for Probate.
Do you need legal advice?
Legal advice is enormously helpful in enabling you to identify issues of concern and decide what measures are appropriate for you and your family. There's nothing to stop you doing it yourself, but it's very easy to make mistakes that might have far reaching consequences, so it is best to have expert guidance.
The good news is that proper legal advice doesn't need to cost you anything. Here at ACSL Solicitors we believe that everyone is entitled to know where they stand and make decisions with confidence. That's why we always provide a consultation free of charge and follow that up with written advice setting out your options clearly so that you can make informed decisions. If you would like to receive this written advice it will cost you just £60.00.
Where to start?
The easiest thing you can do is pick up the phone and give us a call on 0151 363 3977. The answers to your most pressing questions may become clear after just a quick chat. Or you might benefit from a proper consultation, either in person or by video conference, free of charge, to look at your situation in more depth before you decide what to do. Our Probate Solicitor is Gina Stanton.