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Let’s use the rest of the lockdown wisely, and get our “home office” in order

17th June 2020

Let’s use the rest of the lockdown wisely, and get our “home office” in order

Whilst we are certainly not out of the woods yet, after almost 12 weeks of lockdown and with infection rates falling, recent weeks have seen the government begin to ease the restrictions.

How then should we put to good use the time left in lockdown?

Whilst many of us have been able to continue to work, equally many people have used their lockdown time fixing up and tidying their houses and gardens and generally addressing those household jobs often put aside for another day.  Probably one of the most important “chores” we have never got around to dealing with is putting our family and home life administration in order.

Putting our personal affairs in order is unlikely to be at the top of our “to do list”, yet recent events more than ever highlight the importance of being organised – with the benefits this has for ourselves and our loved ones.

We’ve come up with a “top five” jobs you should do before lockdown ends … to give you peace of mind and get your life in better order.

  1. Create a central information record.

This could be a notebook or a password protected document on your computer containing everything someone would need to know if you were unable to provide information personally.  This could include:

  • Passwords
  • Emergency phone numbers – including your doctor, solicitor, accountant and financial advisor
  • Details of bank accounts
  • Details of debts e.g. mortgages, loan agreements
  • Details of utility suppliers and account numbers
  • Location of essential documents

Having all this information together will be incredibly helpful should the time come when somebody needs to manage your affairs.

TOP TIP – be very careful in providing details of a password(s).  Make sure only a trusted person has the password(s).  If you have used a notebook tell your trusted person where it is.

  1. Centralise your documents in one place

You may have amassed a number of important documents which may be needed in the future e.g. details of pensions accrued from previous employment, life insurance policies, deeds, share and other investment certificates.

Get them all together in one place and get rid of the ones which are no longer relevant.

Once your documents are filed together, make a note in your central information record of where they are and if not with you e.g. with solicitors then confirm as much.

TOP TIP – If you have a partner separate the file into three sections – information relevant to you, information relevant to your partner and information relevant to you both – joint investments/accounts etc.

  1. Make or update a Will

Making or updating a Will need not be and should not be a daunting task.  Although not a pleasant task, now is a great time to make or review an existing Will because you have the time to sit down and think about what you want to happen if you die.

Wills which are out of date or which don’t accurately reflect your wishes inevitably cause issues on death.  Similarly, dying without a Will means that the law then decides who is to benefit which of itself can cause immense damage and distress for surviving family and loved ones.   Intended beneficiaries can miss out and there may be adverse Inheritance Tax consequences.

We have been working throughout lockdown and have completed many Wills for clients in accordance with social distancing guidelines giving them peace of mind and reassurance – hugely important in these difficult times particularly for those living alone.

TOP TIP – Review your Will every few years and especially following any major life changes, including marriage, divorce, having children or securing assets/an inheritance.

  1. Helping your family

The coronavirus crisis has had a huge impact on the economy, and it has changed the way many people are viewing their finances.  With interest rates being so low savings accounts aren’t generally working and may leave you considering whether monies would be better used elsewhere.

You may decide to make a loan or a gift to a friend or a family member to help them through these difficult times e.g. with the purchase of a property, a vehicle, or to make an investment perhaps in their business. There are tax exemptions and reliefs but be very careful everyone fully understands the nature of the arrangement and, for example, whether the funds are being provided by way of gift or by way of loan.  Misunderstandings of this nature lead to family rifts.  We can help avoid any prospect of this happening.

TOP TIP – Helping friends and family financially at a difficult time can be more rewarding than receiving minimal interest on your cash investments but be careful to ensure that all involved fully understand the nature of the arrangements and most importantly document the terms of those arrangements e.g. whether repayment is required and if so, what is the repayment schedule.

  1. Put in place precautionary Lasting Powers of Attorney

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are documents allowing you to dictate who should make decisions on your behalf about, on the one hand, your property and financial affairs, and on the other, your health and welfare should mental incapacity ever become an issue.

Where LPAs are not in place and a person loses mental capacity his/her affairs can only be managed by way of an application to the Court of Protection (COP). Applications to the COP can be subject to long delays, are expensive, distressing and time consuming. Such applications can be avoided if you put in place LPAs.

It is critical that you have an LPA in place before you have lost mental capacity and are in a situation where you need one.

TOP TIP – Anticipate the worst in terms that you may lose capacity, take advice, and discuss with family and friends how you want your affairs to be handled if you are unable to manage them yourself.  Take legal advice on all of the options available to you especially if a business is involved.

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