What’s your New Years resolution?

2018 is upon us and what better way to start the New Year than with a New Year’s Resolution to get your affairs in order.

No matter what other resolutions you may have, getting your affairs in order must be a priority and, is something that will affect your family as well as you.

Have you made a Will?

It’s vitally important that everyone has a Will before they die.

It not only ensures your estate is passed on to those you love or care about, helping to provide for them in later life, it also helps avoid conflict, family arguments, and unexpected costs.

Moreover, just because they are your family, it doesn’t mean that they will automatically inherit.

If you have made a Will, is it up to date, are your details correct, have you included everyone or have you new members of the family who need to be added to your Will.

Legally, cohabiting couples have no protection when it comes to inheritance upon death, unless they are named in your Will.

To ensure your partner is protected you must name them in your Will. Even if you have been together for a long period of time and may have children together, this affords you no benefit.

What assets do you have?

Assets aren’t just “the value of your estate”. They can be a family heirloom, a treasured piece of china inherited from a family member, a motor vehicle or any other possession.

Assets can also be “invisible money” such as pensions, death benefits from life insurance, or employment benefits that mature when you die.

Recently, there have been changes surrounding pensions, so ensure you’re up to date with the changes and the rules from your specific provider.

Check if you can leave pension benefits to a specific beneficiary (most companies allow you to assign someone) and, if you can, assign someone.

Do you have a Lasting Power of Attorney? (LPA)

Along with Wills, it is vital for everyone to have an LPA and it is important to do this whilst you still have mental capacity.

Should you lose capacity, without an LPA it becomes very hard to manage finances and make decisions on your behalf, regardless of whether you are married or have a partner.

Your loved ones would have to go through the lengthy process of applying to become your Deputy.

In the meantime, your assets may be frozen, undoubtedly causing stress for your family.

It is important to note capacity does not just mean age related issues. It relates to illness, accidents, and unexpected circumstances.

 

To gain more information on any of the matters above, or for help organising your affairs, contact LCS now on 0345 017 8250.

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Attorneys And Wills

It is increasingly important to write a Will and to ensure that you have Lasting Powers of Attorney in place.

With Dementia and other illnesses of the brain increasing, it is vital that you put your affairs in order whilst you still have the mental capacity to do so. Whilst you may not succumb to such illnesses, nobody knows what the future brings, it is better to be prepared than to be caught out.

To ensure your affairs are left in the hands of someone you trust, it is imperative that you appoint trusted Executors in your Will and trusted Attorneys in your LPA whilst you still have capacity.

But where do your Attorneys stand when it comes to your Will?

Legally, your Attorney does not have to know what is in your Will, however, it is important that your Attorney is aware of your Will and your wishes surrounding it although they are not allowed to influence your Will or coerce you.

Whilst your Attorney must remain impartial, you may wish to discuss your Will with them to ensure no beneficiary loses out.

Will Access

Your Attorney does not automatically have the right of access to your Will and upon your death your Attorney’s powers cease.

Your Will remains confidential, even after your death, it is your Executors who now have an obligation to maintain your privacy. This privacy remains until after Probate has been granted when your Will becomes accessible to the public.

What If I’m Already Incapacitated?

If you are already lacking mental capacity, someone will need to obtain the legal permission to act for you. In such cases an application to the Court of Protection for someone to become your Deputy is necessary.

Should you lack mental capacity and do not have a Will in place, it is possible to have a Statutory Will which is a Court appointed Will. Prior to this timely and costly procedure, LCS would urge everyone to contact us whilst they are still fit and able. How much better to prepare and have the choices yourself rather than leave to chance and have someone else decide for you.

Although it is difficult thinking about dementia and death, it’s important for the people you leave behind to know that everything is organized to avoid conflicts and potential avoidable losses in inheritance.

It’s also important for you to understand your rights.

For more information regarding LPAs and Wills, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250 and start 2018 with peace of mind, not just for you, but your family too.

Who Is Your Executor?

When considering writing a Will, what do you need to think about?

Who will benefit? What are your assets?

But who makes serious consideration about the people that will manage your estate once you die?

This is one of the most important jobs of all.

 

Who do you appoint as an Executor of your Will?

When looking at appointing your Executors, it is imperative that you appoint someone you trust to manage your affairs respectfully and to distribute your estate as per your Will.

You may appoint up to four people as your Executors and these could be family members, friends or professionals such as LCS.

Most people choose a family member, someone who is familiar with the details of your assets, it is likely you’ve spoken to them regarding your wishes.

It is advisable to appoint more than one Executor, you may appoint up to four, however, normally only one Executor will deal with gaining Probate.

Even though you may have appointed a family member or friend, at the time of your death it is likely that your Executors do not feel that they have the knowledge or ability to act alone. When this happens, LCS are here to either guide or do all of the work involved.

Will it be difficult?

Whilst winding up an estate is not generally difficult; however, it is very time consuming and the paperwork can be very daunting when you are not familiar with it.

LCS offer Probate services where we do absolutely everything or, where we are asked to assist and guide the Executors. Either way, we are professional and very efficient and have a legal department which deals predominantly with deceased estates.

This can be helpful when dealing with organisations such as HM Revenue and Customs and the Probate Registry and with preparing estate accounts and distributing the estate.

Using LCS also makes financial sense, we are cost effective and clients always know what our services will cost.

LCS offer a range of Will Writing and Probate Services, so don’t delay in contacting us on 0345 017 8250 and give your family the gift of peace of mind this Christmas.

 

Why Leave A Gift To Charity?

With Christmas being all about giving, it is important to remember those less fortunate than ourselves.

Although many use their Wills to provide for their family after they die, your Will is also the ideal place to leave a gift for a charity.

This could be a random charity, or it could be one you hold close. But either way, why not review your Will this Christmas and consider helping others.

Why leave a gift to charity?

It is no secret that many charities wouldn’t survive without gifts left in Wills.

Some people decide that their family doesn’t need the money, or may be irresponsible with it, and feel it would be better used supporting a good cause.

Others are fortunate enough to have enough money to suitably provide for their loved ones and help a charity.

Whatever your reasons, it is the only real way to ensure the good work continues.

What do I need to do?

Firstly, if it isn’t already listed, you will need to have your Will rewritten.

This is very simple to do, and preparing your Will with a company such as LCS will ensure your Will is updated legally throughout your lifetime.

Once you have decided which Charity you would like to include in your Will, LCS will ensure that the full Charity details, registered number and address are entered properly so that there is no misunderstanding as to who the Charity is.

It may also be a good idea to discuss this with your intended family beneficiaries as they may struggle to understand your wishes and your reasons for including a Charity in your Will.

Is there anything else I can do?

This year, LCS have donated to five great causes and, if you believe it may cause upset, why not donate to your preferred Charity during your lifetime.

That way, you’ll likely avoid misunderstandings with family members, they will still receive their share of your estate and, you will have ensured your own wishes are fulfilled with minimal fuss.

It doesn’t always have to be money. You could also donate food, or clothing, there are many recycling centres where you can deposit your unwanted items and some Charities will arrange to collect larger items from you.

It is so important to help others less fortunate, and at Christmas, there is no better time to share joy.

Overview of LPAs

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a document which allows someone to make decisions on your behalf should you become physically or mentally incapacitated in the future and unable act for yourself. The person / people you appoint to act for you are called Attorneys.

Nobody knows what the future holds, anything can happen and, with one in three people in the UK now developing dementia, it is important that your LPA’s are in place whilst you still have the mental capacity to make them.

One common misconception people have, is that they will have to surrender their right to make their own decisions immediately which is not true, you stay in control until you need help.

LCS offer three different types of LPA:

The Property & Financial Affairs LPA

This allows your Attorney to manage your finances, pay your bills, deal with your pensions, investments and savings, completing tax returns and sell your home.

All LPA’s must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before they can be used.

With this LPA, you can choose when your Attorney steps in. For example, if you have mental capacity but cannot physically manage your day to day finances, your Attorney can help you with this. You can opt for restricting your Attorneys so that they can only act once you have lost mental capacity. The problem with this option is that should you have an accident or prolonged illness your Attorneys will not be authorised to help you.

The Health and Welfare LPA

This allows welfare and healthcare decisions to be made on your behalf, for example, where you live, what you wear, health provisions, dentistry, as well as consenting to you undergoing surgery, being kept alive on life support systems and resuscitation. This LPA can only be used once you have lost mental capacity.

The Business Affairs LPA

This LPA allows someone to manage your business interests should you become unable to manage or lose mental capacity in the future.

It is important to appoint your LPAs whilst you still have capacity, as once you lose capacity, your assets become frozen.

If your capacity is already compromised, you will be unable to appoint someone in the “normal way”. Instead, someone will have to make an application to the Court of Protection to become your Deputy in order to make decisions for you.

This is a very long, costly and sometimes stressful process.

Avoid leaving things to chance, give yourself peace of mind this Christmas, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250 and take advantage of our buy one get one half price on all LPA’s

Avoiding Will Disputes

Nowadays, with a growing trend in people not marrying, and roughly 60% of the adult population not having a Will, Will disputes are on the rise.

So what can you do to ensure this doesn’t happen, and your wishes are abided by?

1. Make A Will

This is the only way to guarantee your wishes are documented. Unfortunately, unmarried couples are not recognised in the eyes of the law. If you die without a Will, your partner may not be provided for no matter how long you’ve been together.

2. Keep Your Will Up To Date

Circumstances change, and Wills may become out of date. If you do not update your Will, it may not actually reflect your dying wishes, leaving family and close friends upset and disappointed.

It is important to update it every time something changes and don’t leave it for another day. Anything could happen!

3. Professional Advice

Sometimes, to abide by your wishes, the family circumstances may suggest a dispute. Take professional advice when writing your Will.

This may be a cost you wish to avoid, but it will be far better than the costs incurred to the family when contesting the Will.

Not only this, the professionals will not only ensure your Will reflects your wishes, but it is valid too.

In the case of a dispute, it is harder to challenge and invalidate a Will that has been prepared by a professional.

By all means, a family member is allowed to help, especially if they’re elderly or vulnerable, but without the assurance of capacity, and the professional seeing the individual alone, it can be viewed as suspicious and raise the question of undue influence.

4. Write An Accompanying Letter

Think about why you are writing your Will as you are, and record your reasons for this in a separate letter.

It is better to have inheritance discussions before death, however if this is too hard, an accompanying letter clearly explaining your reasons will reduce the stress and upset of the situation.

Sometimes, people just need to understand why, and if you aren’t there to ask, that becomes impossible.

5. Reasonable Financial Provision

No matter what, under the Inheritance Act 1975, a beneficiary could claim financial provision from your estate.

If you firmly believe a disgruntled beneficiary may do this, it may be a good idea to include financial inheritance for them.

It may end up less expensive, and you can ensure it is provisional on them not making a claim.

6. Trusts

Assets can be left in a Trust specifically designed to be left to a particular person under the protection of Trustees.

This could be the case if your child is in a difficult marriage and you don’t wish the money to be included in a divorce, or if your beneficiaries are of an age deemed to be too young to inherit.

For information regarding any of the above, contact LCS now on 0345 017 8250 and ensure you have peace of mind this Christmas.

Don’t Forget Your Digital Estate!

With technology at the forefront of most people’s lives and a new generation of “social media techies” being brought up surrounded by tablets and smartphones, is it time we started thinking about what will happen to our technology profile after our death?

Currently, the U.K. has no formal procedure regarding digital assets and what happens in the case of death or incapacity.

Under the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014, personal assets (chattels) do not include digital assets.

It may be the case that some accounts cannot be legally accessed, and assets cannot be passed on. But some, normally those containing money can be, if the correct procedures are followed.

This of course doesn’t just refer to accounts containing assets.

Nowadays, it is normal for people to have at least one form of social media account. Facebook for example, now allows you to grant someone access to your account in the case of death.

This is called a “legacy contact”, and will allow your chosen contact access to memorialize your account.

It is also vital for those who hold their own online business, especially those who own intellectual property rights to address this issue.

For example, under the act, those who own a photography business may leave their hard copies to a beneficiary in their Will, however, they may not be given access to them digitally.

To prepare for this, you need to figure out your assets, your rights, and if this can all be passed on.

So, what can you do?

– Review the terms and conditions and find out what happens in the case of death or long periods of inactivity.
– Ensure your next of kin knows how to access your phone, tablet, laptop etc. And keep a note of your passwords and logins for these, ensuring that they are kept safely or encrypted.
– Ensure your legacy contact knows they’re your contact and know what they need to do to manage your social media.
– Keep your bank statements organised.
– Ensure your executors know where your tax information is, but do not give it to them. Keep it securely as an up to date hard copy.
– Be specific about your digital assets in your Will, and leave additional powers in there.
– You may wish to accompany your Will with a separate letter of wishes if you feel you’d like to maintain privacy between you and your digital executor.
– Always ensure that you have an anti-virus cover on your computer, laptop etc.

To receive more information regarding Wills and your estate, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250

Text Message Wills

According to research by unbiased.co.uk, in 2016, 59% of UK adults did not have a Will.

Nowadays, with technology taking over, the majority of the population does everything on their phones or tablets, people can be forgiven for leaving instructions over what happens to their assets when they die.

What people may not realise, is that in the UK, this is not a legal and binding Will.

Recently, there has been some press regarding an Australian Court accepting an unsent text message as a binding Will.

The message was found in the drafts section of the deceased’s mobile phone, leaving “all that I have” to his brother and nephew, this was compiled shortly before he took his own life.

Although his widow contested the decision (as the text was never sent), it contained the phrase “my Will”. The court ruled that this phrase showed the deceased’s intention.

With an appreciation for modern times, the English Law Commission is currently consulting over the legalities regarding Wills; video Wills may be on the horizon!

As it stands however, the old rules apply.

Capacity

You must be of sound mind and capable of making decisions when you sign your Will. You must also be under no external influences to be compiling your Will.

Intention

You must intend to distribute all or part of your estate. There are particular expressions that must be used eg. “I leave the residue of my estate to X”.

Subscription

The Will must be signed by the Will maker. This ensures it is clear the Will reflects your wishes.

Document storage is also an added security measure.

The Will should also be witnessed by two independent people.

Without all these requirements, your Will won’t be valid and may cause unnecessary stress and heartache to your loved ones upon your death.

For more information regarding Will Writing, Lasting Powers of Attorney, and Document Storage, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250 and let us help you, to help yourself.

Have You Appointed Guardians?

We often hear from younger people that they will make a Will once they have children. Yet, so many people with children have not actually made a Will. According to Will Aid, this is the case with 57% of parents.

Although most younger people don’t believe they have the assets to create a Will, many do not realise that a Will is more than just dividing assets after your death.

If you have children under the age of 18, it is vital that you appoint trusted Guardians within your Will to look after your children under 18 should you and your partner both die. Otherwise, the Courts will decide what happens to your children, running the risk of them entering care.

It is important for you to discuss everything with potential Guardians, as they may decide the responsibility is one they don’t wish to bear.

One worry may be that they don’t have the finances available. This may be overcome by leaving Trusts written into your Will for your children, but ensuring your Trustees have the authority to apply for funds from the Trust fund prior to your children reaching 18 years of age.

Trustees may also be responsible for your entire estate, thus ensuring that directions are set for the financial upbringing of your children, this would ensure that your appointed guardians are not out of pocket and, that your children’s needs are met.

Guardians normally gain parental responsibility, making decisions for a child such as medical treatment and education, until they reach the age of 18.

It is also possible to appoint a substitute Guardian as a substitute in case your original Guardian is unable or unwilling to act.

Although nobody wishes to think of their death, especially when just starting your own family, it is imperative to secure your children’s future whilst you’re still able to do so.

For advice regarding Guardianship, and writing Wills, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250.

To Marry Or Not To Marry

When couples meet in later life or simply choose not to get married, although living together, they may not be protected when one of them dies.

Unfortunately, cohabiting couples are not recognised in law the same way that married couples or those in a civil partnership are.

So, what legally happens to couples when one of them dies without leaving a Will?

Common law spouse

According to intestacy rules, if you die without leaving a Will, in this case, your partner will not receive anything from your estate other than anything held jointly.

Looking to the future

There are some legal benefits to marrying:

– Spouse exemption – anything left to a spouse is exempt from Inheritance Tax (IHT).
– Transferable nil rate band – you can use the first £325,000 of your spouse’s nil rate band, along with your own, providing your spouse did not use their allowance.
– Intestacy – if a Will is not left, upon your death, where there are children, your spouse is entitled to the first £250,000 of the estate and, the interest on half the residue.

Make a Will

It is vitally important for unmarried couples to make a Will specifying their wishes and how they would like their estate to be divided.

Although you may have lived together for many years and even share children, unless you have a Will, you cannot guarantee that your partner will be protected or provided for following your death.

To discuss making a Will and advice on other services regarding your estate, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250.