Families should use the New Year as the perfect opportunity to make or review their wills, say solicitors Coles Miller.
Continually putting off this vital task benefits no-one but the Government which stands to gain the assets of those who die without beneficiaries.
Even those with obvious beneficiaries such as spouses or children should still plan ahead. Wills and trusts can help to reduce Inheritance Tax (IHT) bills.
Two thirds of adults in the UK have not made a will - and those who have should not be complacent, says Coles Miller.
Wills must be reviewed every few years to ensure they accurately reflect any changing financial or family circumstances, warned Coles Miller Associate Stuart Bradford.
“Tax law and care home funding provisions are changing continually. Ignoring this fact could prove extremely costly given the potential sums involved,” he said.
“Family dynamics are also becoming much more complicated as people who have been divorced or widowed then go on to remarry,” he added.
Without a proper will in place, members of the family from the first marriage could find themselves completely disinherited in favour of the spouse and children from a second marriage.
Disputes could arise - particularly as the issue receives more publicity in the media. Wills that are out of date are more likely to be contested.
Regular reviews make it much easier to defend wills from costly and damaging challenges which could result in parts of the estate being eaten up by legal costs.
“Wills can be a taboo subject that people do not like to talk about,” said Mr Bradford, a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).
“But it’s a subject that needs to be discussed. It’s something that has to be faced sooner or later.
“The longer you leave it, the more likely there is to be a problem and the bigger that problem is likely to be. The New Year is a good time to grasp the nettle and ensure you have peace of mind,” he added.
Other issues to consider in parallel with a will are powers of attorney which enable people to delegate important decisions about their finances and healthcare to loved ones or trusted advisers.
Setting up powers of attorney well in advance means that the correct legal mechanisms are in place to safeguard the individual in case they lose the capacity to take important decisions.
Powers of attorney are often set up to help elderly family members.
But they can also be used to assist younger people who have debilitating medical conditions or have suffered due to accidents or medical negligence.
Coles Miller has five offices in Poole, Bournemouth, Charminster, Broadstone and Wimborne.
The Dorset law firm’s dedicated Wills, Tax and Trusts team helps clients with legal work including will writing, disputed wills, estate administration and Inheritance Tax planning.
Coles Miller can also assist with powers of attorney, advance medical decisions (living wills), creating and administering trusts and the setting up and registration of charities.
For more information about wills, probate and trusts, contact Coles Miller Solicitors Associate Stuart Bradford, 01202 293226.