Are your legal affairs are up to date?
Life Matters for Lymington with Lester Aldridge suggests that unprecedented times are a timely reminder to us all
April 2020 by Parisa Jones
"In these unprecedented times, we are anxious as to what the future may hold, with worries about our finances and our health. We are also concerned about our loved ones, some of whom may be vulnerable and require our support.
Whilst we all endeavour to stay home and stay safe, it is important to ensure our legal affairs are up to date.
At Lester Aldridge, we are suggesting our clients consider their Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Inheritance Tax planning and their paperwork. We are able to “meet” with our clients via Skype, Zoom or Whatsapp. If someone does not have internet access then we will look for other solutions but always ensuring that everyone involved can remain safe.
Is your Will up to date or do you need to make a Will? Now is a good time to review the arrangements you have in place and make sure your Will reflects your wishes.
If you do not have a Will, you should make one to ensure your loved ones are protected. Do not leave it to the government to decide what happens to your estate.
More than ever, people are giving their Wills thought and turning to home-made Wills or online Wills in the circumstances. Please remember that there is no real substitution for obtaining legal advice and having a professionally prepared Will.
Whilst there is a cost associated with this, we can advise you on any issues that there may be given your personal circumstances or level and nature of your assets. We can advise you on the feasibility of your intentions and provide you with tax efficient and effective options for providing for your loved ones. We ensure that all matters have been considered and addressed to avoid problems that home-made Wills do not consider.
There are also strict requirements for a valid Will. Although home-made and online Will packages come with some guidance, they cannot ensure that the wording gives effect to your wishes and that the Will is valid.
At Lester Aldridge, we know the right questions to ask, the advice to give and we have the expertise to prepare a Will that is suitable for your needs ultimately, does what you want it to do.
At this time, we are also offering discounted Wills to NHS staff and key workers.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
It is important to consider who will make and deal with important decisions on your behalf if you lose the ability to do so yourself. This could include managing your finances and making decisions about your health, care or welfare. You can put these safeguards in place by making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
An LPA is a legal document that lets you select one or more people (called attorneys) to help you make decisions regarding your property and financial affairs or health and welfare. This means that you have more control over what happens to you if you cannot make decisions for yourself, such as following an accident or illness.
If you have not made an LPA and lose the mental capacity to manage your affairs, it may be necessary for the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy to make decisions in your best interests. This involves greater formality and expense.
There are two types of lasting power of attorney: one to deal with your property and financial affairs and another to cover decisions regarding your health & welfare.
Once appointed, your attorneys can assist you with the management of your finances. This may be particularly helpful for those who find themselves not being able to leave the house, due to the risk of infection. By contrast, your health and welfare attorneys can only make decisions on your behalf if you do not have the necessary mental capacity to make those decisions yourself. Any decision your attorneys make must be in your best interests.
An LPA should be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian so that it is ready for use when required. Although the Office of the Public Guardian will be making efforts to adhere to the usual timescale for registration (approximately 8 weeks) during the COVID-19 crisis, it is possible that there will be further delays due to staff shortages.
We therefore recommend making an ordinary power of attorney, which can be used for financial decisions. This is a much shorter document that gives your attorneys power to deal with your finances. It does not require registration at the Office of the Public Guardian, and therefore can be used immediately. It is important to still consider making LPAs, as an ordinary power of attorney cannot be used if you lose capacity to deal with your affairs.
At Lester Aldridge, to support our clients during this time, we will prepare an ordinary power of attorney relating to your finances free of charge if you instruct us to prepare a property and financial affairs LPA for you.
Inheritance Tax Planning
Many people with investments will notice that there has been a drop in values. Whilst this can be concerning, investments are often for the long term and we will hopefully see values rise again. It also provides us with an opportunity tax plan.
If you were thinking about making gifts for Inheritance Tax purposes to reduce the value of your estate, now may be a good time take action. By gifting assets that have dropped in value, you are able to gift more and your beneficiaries will hopefully then benefit from the values increasing when markets pick up.
If you don’t want to make outright gifts, perhaps you might consider making gifts to a trust.
Before any tax planning is undertaken, it is always important to ensure that you have obtained appropriate advice. At Lester Aldridge, we are able to advise you, taking into account your circumstances, and look at the best course of action.
It is always important to ensure that your paperwork is together and organised. Should anything happen, it would make things easier for someone to step in and manage the situation.
About Lester Aldridge and Life Matters
Lester Aldridge Solicitors are based in London, Southampton and Bournemouth - where the office covering the New Forest is situated conveniently close to the main Bournemouth train station. Their specialist teams in the various fields of law will be happy to advise and assist you, starting with a completely free initial consultation during which you can decide whether you feel able to trust them with your confidential information. For more information please click here. Currently during the coronavirus crisis of course consultations are via virtual meetings : advice is available through phone, email, Skype and Zoom.
Life Matters for Lymington is a series of articles written by various members of the Lester Aldridge team covering a range of relevant topics - also listed here. Particularly pertinent in current circumstances is last December's article about making time to get your affairs in order.