Monthly Archives: February 2018

The unspoken word: how to talk about making a Will…

There are many difficult emotions to deal with when someone dies. It can be made even more challenging if the details of the Will come as a surprise to loved ones left behind.

If an adult child or relation doesn’t inherit what they expected, they can see it as a sign that they weren’t loved or that others were loved more. Those sorts of hurts can run deep and cause anguish for years to come, sometimes leading to a Will being contested.

However, by simply talking about your Will in advance, all of this confusion and heartache can be avoided.

Of course, it can be a tricky discussion to have. Many people don’t like to contemplate their death and family relationships can be tricky at the best of times. However, by openly talking about your estate as well as how you’d like it to be distributed, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of problems emerging later down the line.

Here are our tips on how to go about it:

  1. Mention to your family in advance that you would like to discuss their inheritance.
  2. Talk to your family, individually and as a group.
  3. Prepare an outline of what you intend to do although be receptive to other’s views and consider changing your plans if someone has a better idea.
  4. Explain your goals – you may wish to leave some of your money to charity for example or put some aside for your grandchildren’s education. Explain why these matters are important to you.
  5. In general, it is best to treat your children equally. However, if one child has a special need or disability, and you feel it is your duty to leave more to them, ensure that your reasoning is made clear.
  6. Discuss your sentimental possessions and how you think that they should be distributed. Emotions can run high over these regardless of their value so take time to find out who would like what and try to reach a unanimous agreement.
  7. Be calm and tactful. Discussions such as these can be rewarding if children begin to reminisce over why an object is sentimental to them. However, they can also be tense and emotional so do take this into account.
  8. If you feel that this type of meeting may become argumentative, consider having a neutral party attend. This could be a respected family friend or a professional adviser such as your lawyer or accountant, particularly if they are going to be executor of the will as well.

Ultimately, what goes into your Will is personal, but a conversation about it now could save a lot of anguish at the probate stage.

If you are thinking about planning a Will, or would like to change an existing one, give us a call at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Writing a business LPA…

The use of the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) – where an ‘attorney’ is appointed to make certain decisions on your behalf should you reach the point where you are unable to make them yourself – has increased significantly in recent years.

However, it would be a mistake to view LPAs as purely a tool for individual use. A business or commercial LPA can prove just as useful if you happen to own your own business.

What would happen if you were injured or fell seriously ill? It may be that you have company documents such as a partnership deed or shareholders agreement to say who would take over the running of the company but who makes shareholder decisions i.e. who would be in charge of those strategic decisions on which the future of the business will depend?

While there may be some form of informal understanding among you and your senior team of who would take on that responsibility that may not be enough if you are also a shareholder in a business. Without some form of legal structure in place, there may be issues with them accessing the business’s bank accounts, arranging contracts with suppliers, even paying the salaries of the existing staff. It may not take long for the company to end up in serious difficulties.

Writing a business LPA is an excellent way to tackle this, ensuring that an appointed attorney is in place to step in and maintain continuity should you no longer be able to fill that role.

Picking a suitable attorney for a business LPA is not altogether different to selecting one for a personal LPA. You need to find someone who you trust, who is reliable and who has a similar outlook and attitude towards the business as you. It’s vital that you talk this responsibility through with them in advance though, so they are well aware of what will be expected of them should you fall ill or be involved in an accident.

As with a personal LPA, you can appoint more than one attorney, and specify that they act together in certain areas but separately in others.

Successful business owners pride themselves on being prepared for all situations, and sadly ill health is an important one to consider. Without making it clear legally that one of your team can step in and make important business decisions on your behalf, if you are no longer able to, it can put the very future of the firm in danger. Having a business LPA in place is vital.

To find out more about LPAs, contact legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk to discuss your particular situation.

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Common law marriage or common misconception…

Common law marriage? That old chestnut!

Whether you are familiar with the specific term or not, you may be aware of the concept. The idea that if you live with someone, your assets will simply pass to your partner upon death.

Whilst this is certainly one of the most common assumptions amongst the population at large, unfortunately – and more specifically, legally – it is simply not the case.

Like many things in life, assumptions such as this tend to form over time, passing unquestionably into the general conscious until they have become ‘fact’. Chinese Whispers that have gradually become engrained as folk-law and accepted as true; such as the Great Wall of China being visible from space, goldfish having 3 second memories or Eastenders actually being any good. All faux-facts. It is important to challenge these misconceptions as relying on this misinformation can have potentially damaging consequences.

Given the proportion of people that are cohabiting, the potential extent of the problem is even more worrying.

Survey results from the Office for National Statistics recently showed that cohabitees are the second most common type of family, with the total for 2017 standing at 3.3 million. Cohabiting families are the fastest growing type of family, with the most recent figure being more than double that which was recorded in 1996.

In addition to showing a clear shift in values towards the ‘traditional’ family structure, it also represents an increasing number of families who may be unaware of the consequences when it comes to later life planning.

So, is common-law marriage a myth?

In short, absolutely.

Without a Will, ‘the rule of intestacy’ will step in and your assets will be distributed according to it. Under these rules, only spouses, civil partners and close relatives will automatically be able to inherit your wealth – cohabitees not included. Even if you have been living with a cohabiting partner for many years, this will not increase their right to your estate.

The concern regarding cohabitees is further supported by figures from family justice organisation, Resolution. They reveal that over two-thirds of cohabiting couples don’t know that ‘common-law’ marriage has no legal grounding in the UK – a worrying statistic.

The only way to ensure that your possessions are passed on in line with your wishes is to write a Will.

Though it might seem like a hassle, writing a will can be easy when you’ve got experts to help you, not to mention give you priceless peace of mind.

To assume is to make an ass of u and me.

If you need some help in writing your Will, then speak to a member of the team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk to find out more.