Effectively planning for the future means understanding the importance of having a will and knowing precisely what will happen to your assets and property after you die.
Planning for the future should be something that we all do, but how many of us can say we have our affairs in order should the worst happen? Knowing that our loved ones will be looked after and not face unnecessary hardship after our death can provide great peace of mind, so creating a will and planning for the future of our estate is important.
As such, Debra McKnight of Lifetime Solicitors has offered her insight around some of the most important aspects of wills and estate planning that officers and those working in police forces up and down the country should be aware of.
Why is a will essential?
Currently, only around one-third of adults in the UK who die each year have a will in place. For the rest, this means the government have to carry out the complex and sometimes highly sensitive process of sharing out assets after a person passes away.
The risk is that if you die without a will, known as dying intestate, nobody can truly say what your wishes were. Did you want everything to go to your spouse, or were you set on making provisions to support your children, grandchildren or another party? Without a will, these questions could remain unanswered.
Police officers have a number of options concerning how they have a will created. This includes professional will-writing services from experts like Lifetime Solicitors, as well as from banks, the DIY option or unregulated will-writers. This final option may not be the most suitable, however, as customers are left with little means of redress should anything go wrong.
Managing your estate
When dealing with property, one of the first things you should be aware of is the difference between 'joint tenancy' and 'tenancy in common'. This is a decision you'll be asked to make at the time of purchasing a property, but you can always amend at a later date.
In cases of joint tenancy, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner's share of the property. However, if partners are tenants in common, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit their partner's share. This is where having a will in place is essential - in cases of tenancy in common the will acts as the final say on where assets are disbursed.
Have you considered a trust?
Your home will often be the most valuable possession you will own in your lifetime. As a result, ensuring this valuable asset goes to the people you want it to go to after your death is important.
Creating a Protective Property Trust can be a sensible way to achieve this. It allows officers to control how their property is owned, so they can be certain it will be gifted to their chosen recipients and not to an unknown third party.
The trust works by having the individual gift their share of a property to the trust - instead of a spouse or partner - when they die. The trust then owns their share of the property, but crucially allows for a spouse or partner to remain in it for their lifetime. After they have died, the property will pass to those individuals whom the officer originally chose to benefit.
Understanding Power of Attorney
It's a sad fact that for many us we will at some point in our lives need assistance to take care of ourselves, should our health fail or our faculties be diminished. For this reason, creating a Lasting Power of Attorney can be a prudent step to take.
A Lasting Power of Attorney enables you to give an individual of your choosing the authority to look after your affairs, both financial and physical, and to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so. With people living longer and health issues like dementia becoming more common, it's never too soon to begin planning for your future.
Officers need to be aware that a Lasting Power of Attorney must be tailored to suit their exact circumstances, and this is where the advice and support of a legal professional should be sought.
If you have further questions around wills and estate planning, you can contact Lifetime Solicitors, an independent firm with whom we have a longstanding relationship. Alternatively, please book to attend one of Pre-Retirement Seminars and talk to our experts in person.