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Estate Planning: Our Guide to Protecting your legacy for future generations

Whatever your stage of life, planning your final wishes and how you want your estate to be managed after you can give you real peace of mind. But what do you need to consider, and how do you go about setting up what you need?

We’ve included information here that answers some of the questions that our clients regularly ask.

Our video

What are your wishes?

Finance and Property

Have you considered who you want to leave any money and property to? Perhaps the family home or you might have an investment portfolio of property or other assets? irrespective of the value of your financial assets, you will need to leave detailed instructions for how they’re to be distributed, and to whom.

Top Tip

To get started record everything that you have, and make a note of who you may wish to leave things to. Your notes will help you through the process and you won’t miss anything when you create your will. You can revise your will throughout your life to reflect changes.

Family Matters

We all hope to live a long, healthy life. But sometimes that is taken from us too soon. There are other considerations besides money and possessions. Provision for your children can be included in your will, including financial provision, and who will care for them.

Top Tip

Consider what would help your children get through the loss of their parents, and who would be the best people to bring them up. That might give some insight into your decisions.

Personal Belongings

This is pretty straightforward. You may have things that are dear to you, or have special meaning to particular family members. This could be anything from items of clothing to ornaments. You can detail everything you have, or stick to the really important things that you wish to leave specific instructions for. Its really up to you how much detail you go into.

Top Tip

This is a very personal aspect of estate planning. Why not take an inventory of your valued possessions and list the people to who you might want to leave specific things. The more organised you are, the simpler the process of recording your wishes will be.

Risks

There are risks to your estate that you need to consider. Always take professional advice on how to mitigate those risks.
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Taxation

Depending on the value of your estate, your beneficiaries could be left with an inheritance tax bill to settle. This could result in the need to sell assets like property to settle this liability.
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Sideways Disinheritance

This is a complex area where a surviving spouse remarries. The surviving spouse becomes the recipient of the estate, and the children are disinherited when the surviving spouse dies. The estate moves sideways rather than down a generation.
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Legal Challenges

There are occasions where a will may be the subject of a legal challenge. This could include part of the will, like a trust, or all of it. To mitigate this risk, taking professional advice and employing the services of a professional is crucial. A professional can advise on the best legal instruments to use to safeguard your estate and protect it for your beneficiaries.
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Intestacy

If you do not go through the estate planning process and write and store your will, your estate will be the subject of intestacy rules. Your assets will be divided according to legal requirements with no consideration for what your wishes may have been.

Estate Planning Tools

There are a number of tools and structures that can be utilised to protect your estate for future generations. Most are designed primarily to reduce tax liability and protect against challenges. But creating a will is a legal process that must be completed correctly if it is to be robust enough to achieve its objectives.
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Trusts

Trusts are an excellent way of reducing tax liability and protecting from risks like sideways inheritance or divorce. Our advice on trusts is to always seek out professional advice. There are numerous types of trust, intended for different purposes, and all with complex legal requirements. These are not to be taken lightly, or entered into without the correct knowledge and experience to get them right. Setting a trust up incorrectly can lead to a challenge in court. And a judge will take dim view indeed if they are seen to be used as a vehicle to hide assets.
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Guardianship

In the event that your children lose their parents, you can leave specific instructions in your will for their care. Providing your will is completed correctly, these instructions are legally binding and your children will remain in the care of your chosen family members or friends. Should you not include this information your family may not have control over how your children are cared for, and whatever wishes you may have will not be carried out.
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Reducing Tax Liability

There are a number of tools that you can include in your will to reduce your tax liability. Trusts are one of these. Gifts while you are still alive are another. During the estate planning process, an assessment of your financial position can be established and a skilled estate planning consultant can utilise the right tools to reduce your tax liability and preserve your estate for future generations.

Our Advice

Estate Planning is a complex area that comes with risks if you get it wrong. Trusts are a good example. Our advice is to always take professional advice from an estate planning consultant, who can work through everything with you. They can help you to lay out how and who you wish to leave valued possessions, mitigate your exposure to taxation, and reduce the risk of challenge.

The basic concepts of estate planning are straightforward, but ensuring that everything is recorded in accordance with legal requirements is where specialist knowledge is important. Most wills are successfully challenged where legal documentation has not been completed correctly, or legal instruments like trusts have not been set up properly. So, we can’t stress this enough; take professional advice from the start to ensure that you have peace of mind in knowing that your legacy will be continued.