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It's Never Too Early To... Get your affairs in order

Writing a Will

Getting your affairs in order is about the more practical aspects of leaving your family, estate and legacies in good order to make it as easy as possible for them when you are gone. We have come up with 10 things that are really helpful to get in place, it is also worth considering putting all your documentation and wishes into one place that can easily be found by the people you want and need to see it.

Getting your affairs in order

Mary, a local solicitor explains the importance of planning your legal affairs

Writing a Will

1. Write or update your Will

Your will is a legal document that makes clear your instructions on who will inherit your estate and what happens after you die. You can choose an executor or multiple executors who will carry out your final wishes. If you die without a will there are strict rules which will dictate how your money, property and possessions are allocated. This may not reflect what you would like to happen. Something else to consider is that writing a will saves time, money and alleviates additional stress for your loved ones, it may also help diffuse family disputes as your wishes will clearly be recorded.

2. Arrange or appoint guardians to look after your children or dependents

In your will you can say who you would like to look after your dependents. If they are under 18, you can also appoint legal guardians. Usually, the surviving parent would get sole custody of any children, however, if there is no remaining parent it is best to nominate a guardian to look after your child/children. The alternative is that the family courts may choose a person that might not be your preferred option. You may have named family friends, family members or godparents, but this is not legally-binding.

Family walking through a field

3. Lasting Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint one or more people to help you make decisions, when you are no longer able to make those decisions or don’t want to make your own decisions, you can have someone make decisions or act on your behalf.

4. Choose someone to make decisions about your health, welfare and finances

Health and welfare

If you become unable to make decisions about your health and welfare, the Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA, please see below for more information) gives the person you have appointed, known as the attorney, the power to make decisions about things like:

  • Your daily routine, washing, dressing and eating
  • Medical care
  • Moving into a care home
  • Life-sustaining medical treatment

Your Finances

If you become unable to make decisions about your property and financial affairs the Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA, please see below for more information) gives the person you have appointed, known as the attorney, the power to make decisions about things like:

  • Managing your bank or building society accounts
  • Paying bills
  • Collecting your pension or benefits
  • If necessary, selling your home
5. Ensure your children and loved ones are provided for financially

This could mean putting aside money for their future, for education or deposit on a home. You may want to consider setting up a trust to provide for your children, this can be set up while you are still alive or established when you have died. You may want to provide for your stepchildren, foster children or other dependents, the law states that only spouses or blood relatives will automatically inherit if there is no will.

6. Protect your digital assets

This can include your email and social media accounts, any digital accounts and online purchases, for example, music, websites, photos and films, these are also all part of your legacy and may disappear if you don’t make plans for them. Consider if you want the information destroyed or protected, this may mean making passwords available to the executor of your will.

Learn more
7. Protect your partner and your home if you are unmarried

Unmarried partners and stepchildren are not legally entitled to anything from your estate including the family home unless you have specified something in your will. How long you have been together does not affect this. Completing your will makes sure that they will receive what you want them to.

8. Create a legal will if you have recently married

When you marry, any existing will automatically become invalid in England and Wales. This could mean according to the rules of intestacy your estate is divided between your new partner and children from a previous marriage. Divorce does not override your will, meaning your ex-partner could still inherit from your estate.

9. Create Legacies

Many of us would like to leave the world a better place and one way to do this is to leave part of your estate to a charitable organisation. You may also like to leave specific gifts or assets to family members or friends, writing a will is your opportunity to do this. As well as supporting a good cause you could also potentially reduce the amount of inheritance tax paid by your family.

Learn more about Wills
10. Arrange or appoint someone to take care of your pets

Much loved pets will also need to be looked after when you die, you can choose someone to look after them, and have some money set aside to feed them and cover any vets bills.

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Jane Pantony Head of CSS

Jane Pantony

Head of Counselling and Support Services

Get in touch and let us know how this has helped you or whether anything was missing