Retirement is a significant life event and often coincides with a change in your financial circumstances. Whilst sorting your legal affairs might not be the first priority on your to do list, dealing with matters at the start of retirement, or even better whilst planning your retirement with your financial adviser, means that you are free to enjoy your retirement years with peace of mind that you are protected.
The most important consideration is to make a Will. A Will is the only way of ensuring your property and affairs benefit those whom you would wish to do so. People who do not make a Will are leaving unnecessary work, possible complications and costs to their family.
If you do not make a Will the “Intestacy Rules” will decide which family members will receive your money and possessions after you die. Your whole estate may not automatically pass to a surviving husband, wife or civil partner as most people presume. Unmarried partners will not automatically inherit often causing financial hardship and distress. Surely it would be better to make sure that the people you wanted to benefit following your death was controlled by you?
Wills are also a useful way of including any specific funeral wishes you may have. Even a basic decision as to whether a family member wanted cremating or a burial can cause conflict or be emotionally challenging during a period of grief.
If you already have a Will it is also important to consider reviewing it. Changes in family, financial circumstances or the law may no longer reflect your current wishes or include unnecessary complications. Since 2007 there have been significant changes to inheritance tax for married couples/ civil partners and the introduction of a residential property inheritance tax allowance which may make Wills made over 5 years ago, and certainly prior to 2007, no longer appropriate for estate planning or certainly worth a review.
Lasting Power of Attorney
Have you considered what would happen if you were unable to manage your financial affairs or make decisions over your healthcare treatments due to an accident, old age or illness? This may be temporary, such as hospital stay, or permanent with an illness such as Dementia.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allow you to appoint the person or people you would like to take those key decisions for you. Without it, a family member or friend would have to make an expensive and time consuming Court application and suffer annual administrative requirements.
You can give authority to assist you with your financial affairs, including property, and/or your health and welfare.
It is important to note that an LPA does not take away your independence or control whilst you have capacity and you can limit the decisions you may wish your Attorney(s) to take on your behalf.
An LPA can only be drawn up whilst you have mental capacity and whilst it might sound daunting, the key is to deal with it sooner rather than later whilst your health is not an issue. Think of LPAs like an insurance policy to protect you should you need it in the future.
Asset Protection & Long Term Care Costs
As a population we are living longer and an increasing number of us face the real possibility of going into residential care in the future. Most people are concerned about funding long term residential care with an average cost of £700 per week in the North East.
Currently, if your assets exceed £23,250 (including the value of your property) then you will be self-funding and have to pay for your care yourself with the exception of certain medical conditions. Life savings are being eroded and family homes intended to pass as inheritance may be utilised to fund care for those without planning in place.
As the need for residential care approaches, people may be tempted to transfer their homes into the names of children or to give away large sums of money. If you do so and the Local Authority claim you have purposely done so to avoid the asset being used to pay for care you can still be treated as owning that asset. There is also a significant risk that children may get divorced, have financial difficulties or predecease you causing someone outside the family to get an interest which ultimately could cause you to lose your own home.
It is important to take advice on what assets are considered in any funding assessment, financial options available to you and the structure of your finances to appreciate how residential care may apply to your circumstances. Steps can be taken that can preserve your assets from funding long term care but these have to be considered based on your planning as a whole and reviewed whilst you are in good health. It is essential to take expert legal advice to fully understand your options as early as possible.
Inheritance Tax Planning
In 2018/2019 tax year, the money received by HMRC through Inheritance tax (IHT) was £5.4bn, a staggering level considering it is often termed a voluntary tax as with correct planning the amount of tax payable can be significantly reduced.
The basic principal is that each individual has a tax free estate of £325,000 with additional allowances (currently up to £150,000) being available if residential property is left to direct descendants.
People wrongly assume that tax planning is complicated and whilst it can be for very significant estates, it is often very straight forward with a strategy of steps to achieving tax mitigation. This may include working with financial advisers on arranging your wealth, looking at lifetime gifts or the beneficiaries of your estate to maximise exemptions and reliefs available with the combined aim of minimising the tax bill whilst achieving your succession aims.
Your Next Steps
The Private Client team at Clark Willis not only have a wealth of experience in these matters but also include members of Solicitors for the Elderly and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (www.step.org) so you can have peace of mind that your retirement plans are in safe hands. Take the first steps to your peace of mind by contacting our team today on 01325 281111.