Has the pace of your world slowed a little? Are you starting to spend time thinking about the stuff which really matters? There is nothing like a major worldwide pandemic to focus our minds onto different matters including our own mortality; something other than the day to day of just getting on with work, families, friends……………life.
My business partner Simon and I sat down in one of those quieter moments and did the responsible thing and thought about our own business contingency plans. Neither of us have any plans apart from business as usual. But like many other business owners who have worked hard to make something of ourselves, we have a duty to each other to think about the unthinkable; one of us succumbing badly to COVID-19. You only need to look at the social media feeds of friends and families to realise that this scenario is very real, present and dangerous. Being the people we are, we do take our own medicine and do what we recommend to our clients.
But let’s be brutally honest about this. I’ve never met someone who wants to talk about their own mortality. Or lack of it. But the problem is when you sweep it under the carpet, like the 60% of adults in the UK who don’t have a will, you are just storing up a problem for your nearest and dearest. We literally will go to hell and back to protect them when we are alive, so why not helping them when we not there? If I reflect on why so many of us don’t have a Will, may be it just seems like a mammoth task; appointing Executors, Guardians, deciding on gifts or if you want to be buried or cremated, so you leave it another week, month, something to do on a dark rainy night or just simply later. Or maybe, you just associate Wills with stuff needed for when you are dead. And you are not shuffling off this mortal coil any time soon, so it can wait.
The reality is, the importance of this document to our families when we die is immense. It’s there to avoid – for our children and their families – unnecessary expense, headaches and in the worst cases bitter disputes. Death and money do extraordinary things to people, so it’s important that the people who matter to you really know your final wishes.
But this message about the importance of a Will for our families sake is just not getting through. Of course it only becomes effective at the end of our lives, but we never know when that will be. And with COVID-19 circulating this could be sooner than many of us have planned. Having a will in place can literally take a massive burden off our children’s shoulders. And let’s be honest, you’ve never been one for the rules and always liked doing things your way. So why do you want that to change at the end of your life? Why are you prepared to let other people to decide who should inherit what you do have to leave? And those other people don’t know you, your family or what really mattered to you. The intestacy rules in England and Wales which apply when someone dies without leaving a will, do not take account of our modern society with blended families; children from previous marriages could be completely disinherited.
A recent article in The Times (11th April 2020) highlighted the story of a terminally ill woman who disinherited her stepdaughter after particularly toxic family rows. She won the ensuing court battle and prevented her stepdaughter receiving a penny of her late father’s estate when his will left all of his estate to his second wife. Furthermore, by dismissing the stepdaughter’s claim the judge ordered her to pay legal costs estimated at £50,000; a double blow. Would you want to see your family go through something similar, just because you never quite got around to sorting out your will?
As far as Lasting Powers of Attorney are concerned they are a lifetime document. They are the go to when matters prevent individuals from conducting their own affairs whether through mental incapacity or otherwise. Again, never has there been a time when they have been more important. The costs of putting one in place relative to the cost of applying to the Court of Protection to be appointed as a Legal Guardian is a drop in the ocean. In addition they are effective as soon as they are registered – waiting to be appointed as a Legal Guardian can stretch on for many months.
A will doesn’t have to be a complex document, but my advice is you do need to do something. Coupled with Lasting Powers of Attorney these documents are simply a toolkit to put in the cupboard and pull out every few years to make sure it reflects your position currently. In fact, if it is anything like the toolkit in our house it barely sees the light of day and once in place has very little bearing on your day to day life. However, it’s all there should the fuses go!
If you’ve been thinking about getting your house in order over the last few weeks. Give us a call. You may be pleasantly surprised that everything is where it needs to be and you can rest easy.
To provide you with the full toolkit we are offering a package of advice to cover both a Joint Will and a Joint Lasting Power of Attorney for £1,250.00* plus VAT and registration fees.
If however you have a more extensive estate that requires IHT planning, or consideration for pre or post death variations, then we would be happy to quote separately to assist you.