Add a little legal certainty to your New Year Resolutions
January is the time for making resolutions to give ourselves a fresh start for the New Year.
It’s good to take stock and decide to eat less or exercise more but there’s so much more we could be doing to improve our lives and protect ourselves for the future.
Here are three New Year Resolutions relating to the law that could be of great benefit to you and those who depend on you.
Make sure you have an up-to-date will in place
Making a will is one the easiest and best things you can do to protect the interests of the people you care about.
It’s also the only way of ensuring that your wealth is passed on in the way you want.
Unfortunately, many people never get round to making a will, which means they are said to have died intestate.
If that is the case then their wishes will not be known and their estate will be divided in a way laid down by law. It means their money may not go to the people they would have chosen themselves.
If there is no will, children, grandchildren and even surviving spouses may have to take legal action to receive the inheritance to which they believe they are entitled. Every week in the courts there are cases involving families who are in dispute because someone dear to them failed to make a will.
If you already have a will then it is a good idea to make sure that it is up to date. If it was made several years ago it may no longer reflect your current circumstances, especially if you have divorced and remarried.
Many people do not like the thought of making a will and the associations that go with it but it’s the only way of ensuring that your estate is passed on according to your wishes.
A solicitor can make the process quick and easy while ensuring that all the paperwork is carried out properly in accordance with the law.
Lasting Powers of Attorney could help protect your future
Each year thousands of people create a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to protect their interests in case their health and their mental capacity should start to deteriorate.
LPAs enable you to nominate someone such as a family member or trusted associate to make decisions on your behalf if you ever lose the ability to do so yourself in the future through illnesses such as dementia.
The property and finance LPA allows you to appoint someone to look after your financial affairs and the personal welfare LPA lets you grant an attorney authority over such matters as health care and the kind of treatment you receive.
There are safeguards to prevent the system being abused so you can prepare for the possibility of ill health secure in the knowledge that you can leave important decisions in the hands of someone you trust.
If you don’t have such arrangements in place then your family may have to go through complicated and time-consuming legal processes just to get the authority to help run your affairs for you. That is the last thing they want at a time when they will already be worried about you and your failing health.
LPAs should be drawn up with the help of a solicitor to ensure that they accurately express your wishes and protect your interests.
No one can be sure what the future will bring them in terms of their health, but LPAs can at least ensure that their interests are protected should the worst happen.
How legal agreements can help cohabiting couples
Cohabiting couples are often mistaken about their legal rights.
Many believe there is such a thing as common law marriage giving them the same legal protection as married couples.
Unfortunately for them, this is not true. Cohabiting couples have very few automatic rights and this can cause numerous problems.
For example, if your home is in your ex-partner’s name then you will have no automatic right to stay there if you are asked to leave. Nor will you automatically be entitled to a financial share in the house, even if you helped to pay for it over several years.
If you are cohabiting you should also remember that your partner won’t have to pay maintenance for you if your relationship ends, even if you gave up your job to look after the children while he or she went out to build a lucrative career. They will, however, have to help support any children you have together.
Many couples protect themselves by drawing up living together agreements which state in advance how their assets should be divided if they eventually separate.
This can prevent disputes later if the worst does happen, although many couples find that the process of drawing up an agreement actually strengthens their relationship because both sides feel more secure and settled.
Please contact Alex Deller-Rust for wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney advice and Lorna Barry for family law advice.