Copyright Moore Barlow LLP (Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged May 2020)

Top 10 actions to consider during the current pandemic crisis

I recently came across a quote which said “in business, what you don’t get done today can be done tomorrow. But with family, what doesn’t get done today is gone forever”.

None of us know what is around the corner and those personal tasks which may affect your family are too often put off. You may not like to think about the inevitable, or you may just find it too difficult. However, and particularly in light of the current pandemic, now is a sensible time to bring plans forward.

To help, here are ten action points you could undertake this month:

1. Review your Will – just because we are in lockdown doesn’t mean that this can’t be done. Admittedly with a little adaption it is very much business as usual here at Moore Blatch. If we already have your Will and you don’t have one to hand, we can scan it to you or pop a copy in the post. Discussions regarding your Will and any changes that need to be made can then take place via telephone, skype or zoom. We can send your new Will to you electronically or in the post and we can advise you how best to get it signed whilst adhering to current social distancing rules.

2. If you don’t have a Will, it is time to get one – don’t put it off. You could even consider a ‚Äòstop gap’ with the intention of going back and considering more detailed provisions later on. Without a Will, your estate will devolve in accordance with the intestacy rules. Whilst in some cases that may mirror your wishes, in many other cases (particularly if you have children, are on a second marriage or wish to leave specific bequests) it may not. Having a Will is a good thing. Not having one, however, can elevate stress at what is already an emotional time.

3. Estate Planning – a flattening of house prices may provide an opportunity to undertake some estate planning which might have been too expensive to have done before. Pick up the phone and talk to your accountant and lawyer about potential opportunities. Remember also that the Government is, rightly so, currently spending billions propping up businesses and the UK economy. That will need to be paid for at some point and that could mean an Autumn budget with tax rises or a reduction in the availability of Agricultural Property Relief or Business Property Relief from inheritance tax. Now is the time to start thinking about your affairs and taking advantage of the opportunities that currently exist.

4. Lifetime giving – don’t forget to make gifts within the annual allowance or perhaps, if you have regular spare income, gifts out of surplus income. Again, we can advise on these and what you are able to do.

5. Gifts to charity in your Will – as you will have seen in the news, the income from all charities will be significantly less over the coming months due to the lockdown. If you feel so inclined, this is a good opportunity to bequeath a cash legacy to charity in your Will. Any gifts to charity in your Will are free from inheritance tax and if you give away 10% of your estate to charity then the rate of inheritance tax reduces from 40% to 36%.

6. Use a Trust – there are huge advantages to using trusts either set up in your lifetime or under your Will and we would be happy to discuss these with you. This is particularly relevant for those families who have vulnerable person who may be at risk of being taken advantage of if they’ve been bequeathed a large sum of money. Trusts are also useful when there are second marriages or even a general desire to protect wealth for future generations.

7. Review your business structure – in the unlikely event you or one of your key workers dies, what will happen to your business? Do you have the appropriate keyman insurance in place? If you do not have a written partnership agreement which deals with the point or no partnership agreement at all then the partnership automatically dissolves on the death of a partner. Is that what you want? Is your shareholder’s agreement up to date and do the provisions under that dovetail in with your Will and your wishes? Now is the time to look at all these documents and just make sure everything happens as it should do in the event of a death.

8. Get a Power of Attorney – not just for yourself but also for the more elderly members of your family particularly if those members do not use internet banking. If they are self-isolating, and could potentially be doing so for months, how are they paying bills and generally sorting out life issues? Could a younger family member help out with the authority under a power of attorney? Should you lose capacity and have specific wishes regarding your treatment, a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney would allow someone you trust to make those decisions on your behalf in consultation with the medics looking after you.

9. Get the right specialist advice on probates – on the death of a loved one, it can be very tempting to try and deal with the probate yourself. In some cases that is absolutely fine. However, if you have trusts in a Will, complex family dynamics, a diverse range of complex financial assets or assets which qualify for Agricultural Property Relief or Business Property Relief then it is worth engaging specialist legal advice to deal with these. It may appear that DIY probates are saving you money but if you get it wrong it can cost significantly more to put right, not to mention the additional stress involved. It is always better to take advice when needed.

10. Post death tax planning – it is potentially still possible to do some post death planning using deeds of variation. This is always worth considering on an estate of any significant size.

If you would like to further advice or to discuss any of the above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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