Wills & Estate Planning

What is Estate Planning? 

Estate Planning is a way in which someone gets their finances and personal affairs in order before they die so as to make sure the way they leave things is as easy and clear as possible for their personal representative (executor or administrator)  to sort out after their death. This can often include requiring help with probate.

The financial planning aspects (sometimes referred to as Inheritance Tax (IHT) planning) may include:

  • Advice on making efficient use of any suitable exemptions and reliefs for tax purposes to minimise the impact of IHT and other taxes on death as well as. 
  • Possibly restructuring the way assets are owned between individuals.
  • It may also include exploring restructuring ownership of assets or releasing capital from your home (Equity Release).

The personal aspects are likely to include:

  • Checking you have an up-to-date Will that reflects your wishes and circumstances (see Links to Wills),
  • Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) for Health and Welfare as well as Property and Finances. 
  • It may even include making a Living Will or Advance Directive to explain and record your wishes should you suffer from a certain condition or find yourself in a situation whereby your wishes need to be known regarding treatment or withholding of treatment.
  • It may involve recording your wishes concerning organ donation.
  • It can also involve making funeral arrangements and details of the sort of service or memorial you wish, including any music and readings you may want, who you might wish to be involved in the ceremony and where you want this to happen.

What is the process?

The process will involve the solicitors sitting down and going through your affairs, personal and financial, to get an accurate and complete picture of your life, wealth and wishes. This helps them advise options that work for you and your situation. Each situation is unique, so each person will need specific advice and an individualised solution to their particular circumstances. 

It will include reviewing any existing wills that you may have made and making sure valid and suitable wills are in place.

It may look at life planning or lifetime gifting, either outright or into a trust. This can be important to reduce the value of the estate left on death and make efficient use of lifetime exemptions and reliefs to ensure proper planning for minimising Inheritance Tax exposure.

It will likely include advice on making plans for later life needs including Lasting Powers of Attorney so that, should you no longer be able to make decisions for yourself, someone you trust and choose can make these for you in your best interests. 

It may involve a Financial Advisor where you need to explore taking out investments or re-ordering those assets you already own in a more tax-efficient way.

It will only ever involve taking steps that are legal. Particular attention must be given to not falling into the trap of deliberate deprivation rules, particularly where someone may be already ill or elderly. In such a situation someone may be tempted to give away assets to reduce the possible need to fund future care costs, but a solicitor will advise on what may or may not be possible in this situation.

Estate planning can also take place after death in certain situations and again legal advice should be taken as soon as possible after death if this is what is sought.