Over recent weeks we will all have spent more time at home, but have you used the opportunity to bring your affairs up to date? Despite the current climate, you can still arrange key documents with your solicitor’s help to get in good order and secure peace of mind.
Making a will
Do you or a family member need to make, or update a will? Without one, should you pass away your estate will pass in accordance with 95-year old intestacy rules, and may not benefit the people or groups you would choose or consider appropriate. Crucially, if you are cohabiting and unmarried, your partner will not be entitled to anything under intestacy rules and what he or she may receive as a result of a claim against your estate could be significantly less than you would wish. Many events in your life could result in your will requiring updates so it is important to review your will regularly, especially if you have started a new relationship, had a child or grandchildren.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)
An LPA is an important tool in your estate planning kit, but it is even more important in the face of isolation. If you or a loved one cannot leave the house then the appointment of an attorney to manage your day to day affairs, even for a short time, can relieve stress and worry.
Whilst many people understand the importance of these documents for personal affairs – such as decisions regarding health and finance – they are equally important for business owners. You can put an LPA together that specifically appoints individuals to look after the running of your business on your behalf, should you not be able to, pay bills, service a business loan or meet payroll requirements due to absence or incapacity.
Life insurance and lump sum pensions
Have you written any life insurance and lump sum pensions into trust? You may well have done this when you signed-up, but it is worth checking that you are still happy with the beneficiaries you nominated. Policies written into trust will move outside of your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes, so it is a good idea to check with your providers that you have signed the correct paperwork and are fully up to date. Investing the time now can ensure that your finances are set up in the most tax efficient ways, taking advantage of all reliefs and allowances and save you in the long run.
It is possible that some digital assets have valuable intellectual property rights which can be used after death to benefit the beneficiaries of your estate. Individuals with their own domain names or videos posted online that have been monetised through advertising links would all have an intellectual property element as would individuals who publish online. These assets may need to be dealt with in specific ways and it is worth considering whether you need to take advice.
Finally, give some thought to where you keep your key documents – ideally a copy of your will should be kept together with an asset list in a location easy to find by the executors (and not a safe!). If you already have an asset list, review it to make sure that it is up to date. This is simple to do and will make a huge difference to your executors when the time comes to administer your estate.
Gemma Hughes is an associate solicitor specialising in wills, trusts and estate administration. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 8035 0397, or contact our Private Client team.