By Charlotte MGregor, Wollen Michelmores Solicitors

As long ago as 1789, Banjamin Frankin penned the now rather overused but nonetheless accurate phrase “in this word nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. So, if we’ve known this for all that time and still believe it to be true why am I still dealing with a number of Estates where the affairs of the deceased are in a pickle and could have easily been tidied up?!

Here are my top tips for what you need to do to die neatly:

1. Make a Will

This is so obvious but trust me, not everyone is organised enough to have a Will. It doesn’t matter how small or large your Estate is, a Will affords certainty of your wishes and enables you to make gifts to those people who may not otherwise benefit from your Estate if you died without one.

Creating a Will is your chance to speak beyond the grave (a bit strange I know) but if it’s not in writing then it’s going to be a battle for those left behind to ensure your wishes are upheld.

Although there might be an argument to say that any Will is better than none at all, it’s not one I will be promoting! A fully considered Will is essential. No homemade Wills please. Wills prepared with the guidance of a qualified Solicitor are the best way to ensure a good job is done!

If you’ve made a Will, please make sure your family know where it is stored! In the Solicitors’ Strongroom is a good place and all you need to do is hand out a business card to your nearest and dearest so that they know where to go when the time comes.

2. Explain Any Family Feuds

If, when making your Will you decide not to “do the obvious,” that is your
prerogative. However, every Estate is open to attack by those who might think they were due or were expecting something and trust me we’ve seen some gobsmacking claims!

Therefore, it is essential that you document your reasons for not following the obvious line of succession and your Solicitor needs to know the “ins and outs” of it all. Your Solicitor may also advise you to have a capacity assessment undertaken at the time you are making your Will.

This is not necessarily a comment by the Solicitor on the barmy nature of the instructions you have just given but a precautionary measure to be used in defending a claim by someone saying that you didn’t have capacity to make your new Will – money well spent!

3. Take independent financial advice

So, I’ve dealt with death but what about taxes? If you have assets which might be exposed to Inheritance Tax on your death then you are well advised to seek the advice of the professionals. An Independent Financial Advisor can not only tell you where your exposure is but also recommend products or schemes which may reduce the exposure.

The best Estate Planning is done over a period of time and so whilst you are fit and well, start thinking about what you can do to preserve your assets on death. Don’t wait until you are lying in the hospital bed!

The best Estate Planning is done in conjunction with your trusted Independent Financial Advisor and your Solicitor. Your advisors need to know you and your family circumstances in order to give good, solid advice and the process takes time. Be patient!

4. Make a list of your assets

It might sound obvious but make a list of what you own. I am always amazed at how many people have no idea as to what their assets are when I’m taking Will instructions. If you don’t know, how will your family know?
Include in your list any digital assets that you might own. For example, Bitcoin, other Crypto currencies or online betting accounts.

There are companies in existence which offer asset tracing services such as looking for dormant bank accounts and pensions. However, you can save your Estate the costs of undertaking such a search if you just made a list and updated it every now and again.

As you will see, these are all very simple suggestions. At Wollen Michelmore LLP we have a great Private Client team who can see you either at home or in one of our 6 offices to guide you through the process of effective Estate Planning. We also have a Financial Planning arm to the business and so can offer a holistic approach to Estate Planning and enables us to truly know our clients.

For more information regarding the content of this article, email or call 01392 274006

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