It is always a good idea to plan for the unexpected, and while everyone has busy family lives, it is important to take the time to stop and think about what would happen if you were ill. Who would look after your children? Who might be looking after your elderly parents? Would someone have power to deal with your financial affairs or indeed make decisions about your welfare when you are unable to? Families affected by the current pandemic will know only too well how important this can be.
Any death in a family is upsetting whether it was expected or not and our private client team regularly advise families on how to make that process easier from the point of view of being organised and having wishes clearly detailed in a Will.
So here are some tips and things you should think about:
1. Make a Will and make sure you keep it up to date. This can be a very important tool to protect your family when you are no longer able to, whether it is a spouse, partner, young child(ren), vulnerable family members who might need extra help with managing their affairs or ensuring extended family are helped where necessary.
2. Make sure you have a Power of Attorney in place for your financial affairs and also your welfare decisions. This is an insurance policy that you hope you never need but can be very useful if you are ill for a period of time or perhaps in later life when you are unable to make your own decisions.
3. Consider a Living Will (or Advanced Medical Directive). With the current pandemic people want to be very clear on what should happen to them if the doctors do not believe that you will recover. This document sets out your wishes and importantly also helps your family understand your views.
4. Consider the use of a Trust. It is a fact of modern life that family structures can be immensely complicated. Divorce, second marriages and children from different relationships are not uncommon. A Will can put in place Trust structures which protect the capital value of your assets for your own children while ensuring income and use of your home for the surviving spouse or partner. Trusts can also be used to protect younger children and hold funds until they are at a more sensible age.
5. Protect your Children. Wills can put in place the right structures to look after assets for children until they are older. Wills are also important for appointing legal guardians to any children if both parents are no longer alive.
6. Keep track of what you own. Take the time to make a list or have your important papers in a central place that your family is aware of – be organised.
7. Access to funds. Think about what would happen if you were ill for a period of time or indeed had died, how would your family pay for bills? Is there access to funds for your ongoing partner or family? Will insurance pay out to avoid them worrying about meeting mortgage payments, etc.
8. Business owners. No matter how small or big the business you should consider what would happen in the event of your death or temporary illness. Is there someone who can deal with matters on your behalf? Do they have the power to do so or will all your hard work grind to a halt? Family businesses are very important to society and to the wider family, which makes it vital that there are measures in place to ensure they continue if someone is ill or has died.
9. Talk to your family. Above all when looking to protect your family, we recommend you discuss with them what you have put in place or the plans you have made to help make things easier. This can take away a lot of worries knowing that you have thought carefully about how you want to protect your family.