During this unprecedented and tumultuous period, many people are spending more time at home with their families, caring for and thinking about elderly relatives,and trying to make plans for the future. Most of us are uncomfortable talking about serious illness or death; we might know in the back of our minds that we will have to face these issues at some point, but many of us choose to ignore or delay these conversations. However, the Covid-19 crisis has brought into sharp focus the need to plan for what happens if you or a close family member dies or is incapacitated by illness.There are various issues to consider:
Most people know that it is important to have a Will, but there are often misunderstandings as to what a Will can do, and the consequences of not having a professionally drafted Will. A proper Will can address the following issues:
- Who gets your assets and property: if you do not have a Will, the government’s Intestacy Rules will determine who receives your assets after your death. While these rules may be appropriate for some families, most people will want to make different arrangements to reflect their personal family situation.
- Who makes decisions after your death: some people will want to provide for vulnerable people after their death (for example young children, or perhaps incapacitated or disabled relatives). A properly drafted Will appoints people you trust to make financial decisions, and potentially who will serve as guardians of your young children.
- Inheritance Tax: a well drafted Will can ensure your family has the benefit of all the available Inheritance Tax allowances. A married couple with children can easily have up to £1 million in tax-free allowances available to them, but not having a Will, or a Will which is not up to date, may mean some of these tax-free allowances are lost, and more tax is payable as a result. Many families are fearful of how Inheritance Tax could affect them, and having a discussion with a solicitor about it can put many of these fears to rest.
- A lasting legacy: perhaps above all, a Will can set out the lasting legacy you leave behind, in terms of providing for family and friends, your funeral or memorial wishes, and potentially making charitable gifts. Making gifts to charities in Wills provides opportunities to maximise the impact of those gifts, as the tax treatment is very generous.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs)
LPAs are documents which allow people you choose (the ‘attorneys’) to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to decisions yourself. You could become incapacitated temporarily by an accident or illness, or you could face many years of difficulties because of old-age dementia, for example, and in such situations your attorneys would be able to use the LPAs to manage your property and finances in your best interests, or even make medical or care decisions for you.
Many people mistakenly think that their ‘next of kin’ will have automatic rights to manage their finances, or to make medical decisions for them, if they are incapacitated, but in most situations that is not the case. Even a spouse has no automatic right to manage bank accounts or make medical decisions for an incapacitated person. LPAs are essential for guarding against the disruption caused by incapacity due to illness or injury.
Some people are concerned that making an LPA will mean they are giving up the power to make their own decisions, or that their newly appointed attorneys will have the power to control them: this is incorrect. You retain full power to make all your own decisions after an LPA is made; your attorneys simply have the authority to make decisions for you if you can no longer make them yourself. LPAs protect you, they do not strip you of decision-making power.
Administering an Estate
In the unfortunate event that one of your loved ones has passed away, we can assist the executors and take over the burden of this process,from preparing the relevant forms, obtaining Probate and reporting to HMRC for inheritance tax,through to administering and distributing the estate.
Administering an estate can be a long and unfamiliar process, and it is easy for inexperienced people to make mistakes in going through the formalities. This is why getting advice from a solicitor in such situations is so essential: we can guide you through the unfamiliar process, take over the tasks which require legal expertise, and advise you on the best way forward during a difficult time.
You may be worried about meeting face-to-face with a solicitor, especially if you are categorised as particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. At Vyman, we have addressed these concerns in a variety of ways: taking initial instructions over the phone and email, using Zoom or Skype for virtual meetings, and adapting our approach to the circumstances of the client. We can provide a full, safe service to you while fully abiding by safety guidelines.For clients visiting our office, we have spacious meeting rooms where we can have a discussion in person whilst maintaining a safe distance, and all our staff have adopted best practices to reduce potential transmission.
A good solicitor is, above all else, a good problem solver, so we take pride in being able to adapt to your circumstances and concerns to take you through all stages of the process. We are a diverse team, conversant in other languages, such as French, Gujarati and Hindi should this be necessary.
Working with legal professionals in the preparation of your Wills and LPAs and in administering an estate is a wise investment, as it ensures that the correct procedures are followed, opportunities are not missed and, above all,eases the stress and burden of those concerned, now or in the future.
For all enquiries relating to Wills, LPAs, Trusts and Probate, please contact Alexander Mahdavi on 020 8427 9080 or by email on email@example.com