Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.
A time to meet family and friends you don’t have time to see during the year and catch up on their lives - who has finally found someone, got engaged, got married, been born ... and the sad part when someone isn’t there anymore and you miss them.
Every family is different – some couples are married, some aren’t, some have children, some don’t. But no matter what your family looks like, none of us likes to think about the ‘what ifs’ – those nagging thoughts at the back of our mind telling us we really must get round to planning what will happen when it's us who suddenly aren't there.
Perhaps this New Year we could all make one resolution that we might keep. Not like th e usual vow to give up chocolate (until, perhaps, the afternoon), or go for a run every morning (it’s January! - it’s very cold and very dark).
Instead of just thinking about it, why not actually do it, and make your Will, for after you've gone? - or sign a Lasting Power of Attorney, for when you're still here but can't do much for yourself any more?
Here are just five of the many reasons these things are worth doing:
- There is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’ in England and Wales. Unless you are married or in a civil partnership your legal rights as members of a couple are very limited. For instance, if one of you is seriously ill, the other has no automatic right to be involved in decisions about medical care. This might be what you want for now, but it might be a good idea to consider the future: what you both do want, and what you both might need.
- If you have made a Will already, is it still fit for purpose, or even still valid? If you made a Will before you got married, it usually won't still be valid. With no valid Will, you have no say in who will inherit. There are legal rules about this that might not reflect what you want for your family. Besides dealing with inheritance, a Will can be a chance to nominate a trusted friend to look after your young children, for instance. Even if you've got a Will that's still valid, have a look at it and see if it still does what you want - circumstances have a habit of changing over the years.
- What if you become suddenly disabled, or too ill to look after your affairs? Or if that happens to your partner or your parents? To take charge of someone's finances when this happens means applying to the Court of Protection. It can take months to organise, and cost thousands of pounds, both to begin with and over the years. All that can be avoided if the disabled person signed a Lasting Power of Attorney before the problems arose, appointing family members or friends to act as attorneys when necessary. It's like insurance - a Lasting Power of Attorney costs a few hundred pounds now but may save thousands in future, as well as giving you and your family peace of mind knowing it's there if it's needed.
- Have you just purchased your first home - or your second for that matter? It's a good time to take stock of your life and all the things that might happen and to make a Will to cater for some of the possibilities.
- Finally, as lawyers we see families struggle with their loss when someone dies, and sometimes focus on the material things as a measure of their loved ones love for them. Sometimes this has a disastrous effect. Why not make the provision that does reflect that love and give such comfort as you can? I say this as Christmas is about family and coming together with the people we love – let’s make it as easy as possible for the future.
Please if you have any other questions about how to make a Will, get in touch with us or download our free guide here.