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12 SENIOR LIFESTYLE 18 OCTOBER 2015 Legal Advice, Private Client & Legacies

Make sure writing a Will doesn’t fall off your to-do list

James Antoniou, head of Wills for the Co-operative Legal Services, explains the process

would want to look after our financial affairs if we were no longer able to — remains an afterthought for many of us. Life just gets in the way and we’re often so busy planning for our immediate future that making a Will either falls off our to-do list or never even makes its way on. In life, we focus on caring for

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our loved ones and ensuring their emotional and financial wellbeing — yet with no valid Will, we risk leaving our nearest and dearest with a legacy of uncertainty,

For married or co-habiting couples, a Mirror Will may be a sensible option

financial concerns and emotional worry about our last wishes. It’s not uncommon for this to boil over into a family dispute as relatives and loved ones struggle with a lack of certainty about what was intended for whom.

No Will in place? If you die without a Will in place in England or Wales, the rules of intestacy would then apply, meaning that the law decides who inherits your estate — that is, who gets your property, financial assets, possessions and even your pets. If you have no living family entitled to inherit your estate, it would all be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, and it could be that the Crown would inherit everything.

lthough we plan so much of our lives, making a Will — or considering who we

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Without a valid Will you risk leaving a legacy of uncertainty Image: Getty

Daunting process When thinking about writing a Will it can be difficult to know where to begin. It can be a good idea to start by mapping your estate as it stands today and thinking about who you’d want to make provisions for in one way or another. It will then become easier to prioritise beneficiaries and ensure that your loved ones will still be provided for if your or their circumstances happen to change. If you use a professional Will-writing service, your Will writer will support this process by asking questions to help draw out the relevant details, helping you to match your assets with beneficiaries.

Personal touches It’s important to think beyond just monetary assets. To avoid any uncertainty for those leſt behind, make any other key wishes known, such as the care of any young children or pets, and the division of sentimental belongings such as jewellery. If you feel comfortable doing so, it can be a sensible idea to talk your family through all the arrangements you’re making so that they

understand your wishes

and are clear on what you want and why. Tere’s

also the option to include a ‘letter of wishes’ with your Will, explaining in your own words the reasons for deciding who you want to benefit from your estate, as well as any other personal

messages you might wish to communicate to your family aſter you’ve gone.

Other considerations Tere are many things to consider that you might not realise are possible when writing your Will. One example of this is legacy giving, which many charities rely on as a key source of funds. For married or cohabiting couples, a Mirror Will may be a sensible option. Tese are identical Wills in which each person leaves their assets to the same beneficiaries.

Future-proofing your Will Once written, it can be easy to simply file and forget about your Will. However, it’s important to remember that your circumstances are likely to change so it’s worth revisiting your Will every few years. Births, marriages, divorce, retirement and the loss of a loved one should all be triggers to re- consider the contents of your Will. It’s possible to create trusts within

your Will, enabling you to preserve wealth for future generations or to cater to a specific need — for example, protecting against residential care costs or helping vulnerable beneficiaries.

Lasting power of attorney While a Will sets out your wishes aſter death, a lasting power of attorney (LPA) is an important document effective during your lifetime. If an individual becomes unable to make decisions about their financial affairs or their

welfare due to illness, old age or an accident, for instance, there isn’t an automatic right allowing their next of kin to make decisions on their behalf. By putting in place a LPA, you can nominate someone you trust to manage your finances or make decisions about your welfare in the event that you become unable to. Where a LPA isn’t in

place, someone must apply to the court to be appointed a ‘deputy’ before they’re able to deal with matters on that person’s behalf. Tis can be a long and expensive process at what can already be a stressful and emotional time. If you want to put a LPA in place, you must do it when you can still make decisions for yourself. Te most common ways of putting

Your circumstances are likely to change so it’s worth revisiting your Will every few years

a LPA in place are instructing a legal professional to prepare the documents in accordance with the individual’s wishes or preparing the documentation themselves. For the LPA to be activated, it must be registered by the Office of the Public Guardian.

Te Co-operative Legal Services offers fixed-fee legal advice.

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