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Now is the time to put your affairs in order – Five top tips

The current circumstances do provide an opportunity for reflection. What steps should you consider?

During the coronavirus outbreak, private client lawyers have quite rightly been advising on how basic estate planning issues are to be dealt with, like how to have a Will witnessed or who can certify a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Other planning issues, like inheritance tax mitigation or business succession, may feel like they have faded into the background and yet the current circumstances do provide an opportunity for reflection. What steps should you consider?

  1. Review any existing Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney: check that they still achieve what you want them to. Revisit guardian appointments for children.
  2. Review pension nominations: take the time to review pension nominations so that any benefits do not form part of your estate for inheritance tax purposes. Also, more importantly perhaps, ensure that your nominations are up to date and specify the right beneficiaries.
  3. Review life insurance: the same is true for life insurance. Ensure that it is paid into trust and not just to someone whose own inheritance tax liability would be worsened as a result.
  4. Revisit shareholder or partnership agreements: business owners should make sure they are still fit for purpose if matters have moved on from when they were first created. Do they, for example, need to allow for a little more freedom as to how and to whom shares can be left so that relevant family members can be provided for whilst protecting the commerciality of the business?
  5. Timing of transfers: if business interests, investments or property have fallen in value as a consequence of the current economic uncertainty, now could be an ideal time to consider a transfer to the next generation or into trust – whilst capital gains are unusually low and to allow for subsequent growth to take place in the hands of others. Should you be considering a pre or post nuptial agreement for family members in that situation?

Often personal matters do slip down the priority list in the hurley-burley of everyday life. Now could present an ideal opportunity to put some more longer term estate planning in place.

If the content of this update raises any issues for you, or you would like to discuss, please liaise with Richard Bate at richard.bate@weightmans.com.

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