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Four things to do before you die

21.07.2016

Smart planning for the future has never been more important. With economic uncertainty looming on the horizon, we all want to retain that feeling of control over our own lives as well as our legacies after we’re gone.

Whether you’re worried about losing mental capacity and what decisions will be made on your behalf, or what will happen to your money and property after you die, there are various legal options open to you when it comes to planning your future.

With this in mind, we’ve come up with four legal safeguards we think everyone should consider doing now to give them certainty and control over their lives.

Get a Will

It may sound obvious, but two thirds of people in the UK don’t have a Will. Writing a Will gives you control over how your assets are distributed after you die. If you don’t have one then your property will be dealt with according to the laws of intestacy – which doesn’t just mean your money will go to your children.

Of course, there are various ways you can write a Will, including using a DIY kit or online. But with a rise in inheritance disputes your Will needs to be watertight, so it makes sense to seek help from a solicitor to draft one.

Create a Lasting Power of Attorney

At the same time as writing your Will, you might want to consider a Lasting Power of Attorney. An LPA is a legal document that appoints someone – usually a family member or friend – to make decisions on your behalf if you lose mental capacity.

Loss of capacity is a growing issue – as a society we’re getting collectively older, leading to a rise in dementia and other mental impairments. Of course, an LPA isn’t just for the elderly – anyone can be the victim of an accident which leaves them disabled and unable to manage their own affairs.

It’s therefore worth getting an LPA no matter what age you are – and remember, it’s too late to do it once you’ve already lost capacity. Should this happen, your family would need to apply to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy to act on your behalf – and it might not be someone you would have chosen yourself.

Set up a trust

Trusts aren’t just for the super wealthy, especially when you consider how much money the average homeowner has tied up in their property. They can be used to reduce tax liability when you die, but also to ensure that assets go where they are supposed to.

Trusts can be set up in your lifetime or in your Will. You might wish to set up a trust in your Will for your house which provides that your spouse can continue to live there after you die, and then states that on your spouse’s death or remarriage the property passes to your children.

This can protect the value of the property for your children if your spouse remarries.

Trusts can also hold money or property for children who are too young to inherit them – so if something happens to you and your spouse, you can be certain that your children will be provided for.

Write a Living Will

If a Will is a statement of your wishes for what happens to your estate after you die, a Living Will expresses your wishes as to how you would want to be treated and looked after in certain circumstances should you lack capacity or be unable to communicate your decisions..

When making a Living Will, you can specify in advance whether you would like to be cared for in a hospice or home, or whether you wish to receive medical treatment if you fall into a coma, for example.

Of course, it’s important to keep you Living Will up to date in the same way you would your regular Will, as your wishes and circumstances may change with time.

Further information

To speak to one of our experienced Wills, Trusts + Probate solicitors in Bristol about creating your Will, Lasting Power of Attorney, Trust or Living Will, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.

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