This week is Dying Matters Week, which is designed to raise awareness of death and the issues that surround it. Two key themes that the week seeks to raise awareness of are the physical and financial aspects of death.

It can be reassuring to know that your most loved and trusted ones are able to act on your wishes for both financial and health matters. Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) can help provide you with support for both. There are two types: i) Property and Financial Affairs and ii) Health and Welfare. These are helpful documents to have at all stages of adult life, allowing Attorneys who you appoint to act on your behalf.

However, they are particularly helpful for those who are elderly. A Health and Welfare LPA can allow your Attorneys to step into your shoes and direct doctors on life sustaining treatment, if you are unable to. There are also options to add other preferences and instructions on your Health and Welfare LPAs, which helps provide peace of mind that your health and end of life care will be delivered according to your wishes. A Property and Financial Affairs LPA can remove the stress of day to day financial activities, such as going to the bank, by ensuring your Attorneys can assist you.

It is also important for you to consider making a Will. You may have family members who you are estranged from and who you would prefer not to receive a share of your assets. If you do not make a Will, your assets will pass via the statutory intestacy rules. These rules provide a set formula for how your assets are distributed and for which your wishes are not taken into account. This can also be tax inefficient, meaning that less will pass to your loved ones.

By making a Will, you can direct how important items with special, sentimental value are distributed after your death. It can also ensure that those who you wish to provide for provided for. You are not restricted to simply distributing your assets to family, but to any friend or individual you wish. You may also wish to donate to charity on your death. If such gifts are equivalent to at least 10% of your net estate, this can be more tax efficient too if your estate is subject to inheritance tax. Without a Will, this is not possible.

It is recommended you seek legal advice for LPAs and Wills as they are complicated documents that may be invalid with the simplest mistakes. Solicitors can also assist with your Estate planning, so that you do not incur additional tax burdens during your lifetime and on your death by, for example, setting up certain types of trusts.

An Executor of a Will can be anyone aged 18 or above and can be someone that is mentioned in the Will as a beneficiary.  An Executor of a Will does not need to be a family member but needs to be someone you can trust and a person with the capacity to handle the responsibility.

An Executor of a Will is someone who is responsible with handling your estate and can include duties such as selling a property, paying off debts and distributing assets as directed.

A professional, such as a Solicitor, can be appointed to manage your estate and who will charge a fee for this service.  Solicitors are regulated by law and have a fiduciary duty to ensure they adhere to your wishes and act in the best interests of your beneficiaries.

If you are concerned about an estranged family member and the impact your death may have on the surviving family members, it is useful to discuss with a solicitor an Inheritance Act Clause. The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 allows certain categories of people to make a claim against your Estate. These being:

  • A spouse or civil partner
  • Former spouse or civil partner
  • Cohabitee
  • Child of the deceased
  • Dependent of the deceased

There is no definitive way to prevent a claim under the Inheritance Act by somebody in the above categories. However, with the support of a solicitor, it is possible to draft your Will or an appended document, to explain why there is no provision or limited provision made to an individual. This can assist the Estate in defending any claim made.

If you have no family then it is still important to seek advice from a Solicitor to ensure your wishes are adhered to and your assets go to the people or charity that you choose to benefit. If you do not make a Will and have no family, then your Estate passes back to the Crown, which is called Bona Vacantia.

By having LPAs and a Will, you will be well placed to have a peaceful end of life, knowing that both yourself and your loved ones are looked after in accordance with your wishes.

At Ellisons our specialist Private Client Solicitors are able to help you plan for your future. By instructing our respected Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors in Essex and Suffolk you can plan ahead making sure your family is provided for in the future. Contact the Ellisons’ specialist Private Client Solicitors today on 01206 764477 or email us at [email protected].