The start of a New Year is always a period of reflection. The landscape of the world and your own personal circumstances can change dramatically over the course of a year, so it is essential that your affairs are kept in order and up to date.
In this blog, we set out five new year’s resolutions (that don’t involve diets or exercise!) to protect you, your family and your assets.
1. Make a will or review your existing will
What happens if I die without a will in place?
Over half of adults in the UK do not have a will in place. If you don’t have a valid Will in place when you die, your estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules. These rules are set out by law and dictate what happens to an estate when there is no valid Will. Depending on your circumstances, not having a Will could result in your estate passing to family members who you have fallen out with or not spoken to for years and could even mean that Inheritance Tax is payable when it could otherwise been avoided! It is especially important that co-habiting partners make Wills – as an unmarried partner does not inherit via the intestacy rules, regardless of the length of the relationship.
Do I need to update my will?
Even if you have made a Will, it is important to keep it up to date. A Will does not expire unless it is expressly revoked, you make a new will or you get married. Therefore, a Will you made twenty years ago will still be valid, even if your circumstances and relationships have changed considerably since.
Although you may not need to amend it, it’s a good idea to review the contents of your Will to see if changes are needed at least once a year and whenever there is any major change in your financial or family circumstances for example, if someone dies, is born, gets married or gets divorced. This is to make sure that your will is still up to date and in line with your current wishes.
Where should my will be stored?
If you haven’t done so already, it is important to let your executors know where your Will is being stored. There is no point in making a Will if it is not located on your death.
If you make your will with Howell Jones, we will safely store your will for you free of charge and we will also register your will with the National Will Register.
2. Making Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs)
What is an LPA?
LPAs are documents in which you chose one or more people (your attorneys) to make financial or health decisions on your behalf.
You can make an LPA if you are over 18 years of age and you have the mental capacity to do so.
If you lose mental capacity, then it’s too late to put an LPA in place. This means that your family will not be able to help you with your finances or make decisions regarding your health and welfare unless they apply to the Court of Protection.
The Office of the Public Guardian is currently taking 20 weeks to register LPAs so it’s important to make sure you put LPAs in place sooner rather than later. The hope is that your attorneys will never need to use your LPAs, but, if you make sure that you prepare and register the LPAs now, your attorneys will have all the tools they will need to make sure that you and your affairs are looked after.
3. Review your Inheritance Tax position
HMRC received £4.1 billion in Inheritance Tax in the seven months between April 2022 to October 2022, which is £0.5 billion higher than in the same period a year earlier.
The rules regarding inheritance tax are complex but we can help you navigate these rules, advise you on how they apply to you, your family and your financial circumstances and guide you through the steps you can take to mitigate the Inheritance Tax payable on your death.
4. Register your property with the Land Registry’s Property Alert service
The Land Registry offer a free and simple service which enables homeowners to register their property so that they receive alerts if there is significant activity on the property (such as a transfer or mortgage).
Property fraud is on the rise and there have recently been a number of cases of fraudsters posing as homeowners to try and sell vacant properties and pocket the sale proceeds.
Beware! This happens more often than you could imagine and is close to home too! A case just like this happened to a property in Addlestone and the firm of solicitors had to defend a claim where a fraudster had provided fake identification in order to sell another person’s property illegally!
You can sign up for the service here: Property Alert – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
5. Speak to your relatives and make sure their affairs are in order
If you have elderly or unwell parents or relatives it is important that you speak with them and make sure they have up-to-date Wills and LPAs. We often encounter problems where people have lost mental capacity without putting LPAs in place or die without leaving a valid Will. These problems can be avoided by having open and honest conversations with your loved ones.
If you would like any further information, have any questions or would like any help or advice, please contact a member of our friendly, knowledgeable team.