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Plan Ahead and Prevent Legal Problems

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This article has been submitted by Peter Lynn and Partners 

Frequently there are news stories of celebrities and public figures passing on without leaving a Will. At an already distressing time, loved ones can be left to resolve financial matters which can be complicated and fraught with pitfalls if mishandled.

Wills are not just for the elderly either. Passing on without having your affairs in order can have a severe and potentially detrimental effect on your family regardless of your age or financial status.

Writing a Will may not seem appealing but it is, arguably, the most important document you will have however in addition to Wills, there are two other aspects of planning for your future of which you need to be aware.

LASTING POWERS OF ATTORNEY

Appointing people to make decisions on your behalf during your lifetime should you lose mental capacity is just as important as making a Will.

There may be a time in your life when you are unable to make decisions involving your finances, health or welfare. This may be for a variety of reasons, including dementia, so planning for your future and making your wishes known is key.

The most efficient way of planning for your future is to prepare a Lasting Power of Attorney (‘LPA’) Document.

There are two types of LPA:

  • One to assist in the management of your finances
  • Another to assist in making decisions about your health and welfare.

Without advanced planning and correct legal documentation, people of importance to you will be unable to make decisions on your behalf regarding finances, health, welfare or the running of your business.

Our advice is simple – plan ahead and plan wisely. Make sure you decide who will make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

THE IMPACT OF DEATH ON YOUR BUSINESS

A Will is an essential document particularly if you own a business.

Upon death, your executors can initiate your wishes in relation to your business and/or shares.  If, however, you do not have a Will then your estate can become unnecessarily complicated.

Your business shares and responsibilities may be put on hold until your estate has been administered which, depending on your estate, could take months or longer.

If you are the sole shareholder of your business and employ staff, pay wages and suppliers, then these may go unpaid until your estate has been administered.

Business partners may not be able to make decisions on your behalf with all of your assets potentially frozen and, without inheritance tax planning, your estate may be subject to a large tax bill.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Who will be the new person sitting on the board?
  • Will they share the same values and aspirations?
  • If the new person has inherited a majority stake in the business that person is, for all intents and purposes, the new boss – do you know who that person will be?

In addition to Wills planning, it is prudent to seek advice on Partnership or Shareholders Agreements and to keep them regularly updated, so they reflect your current business situation.

There are many other pitfalls for people passing on without a Will, so our advice is simple – plan ahead and regularly review the plan to ensure it is in line with your wishes and current lifestyle.