Later life planning – why talking to your children about what you want is vital
More and more, we are all urged to 'live in the moment' - to make the most of the here and now and not to worry about the future. After all, who knows what might be round the corner?
A commendable philosophy to live by - except when it comes to later life planning, things like Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) and estate and tax planning.
Tackling these issues now is highly advisable, preparing in advance for the challenges that ageing may bring, precisely because we don't know what the future holds - and talking to our families and solicitors about exactly what we want is key to this.
Never too early for positive conversations
Planning ahead needn't be doom and gloom; it's about having a positive conversation with people including your children, your solicitor, your executors and attorneys.
This can include everything from what you'd like to happen to your finances and assets to how you'd like to be cared for in the future and what costs might be involved in this.
Although not always easy or comfortable - a recent survey showed just one in seven adults has tackled this subject with loved ones - it's never too early to start a dialogue about money or what you'd like to happen if you can no longer make decisions.
And certainly far better to do so in advance than waiting until a crisis forces everyone to sit down and talk at a time when emotions are already running high.
A lesson for loved ones
Involving your children early on also ensures they gain an insight into how to protect their own finances in the future.
Explaining and taking them with you on your own estate planning journey, even when you're at the early stages of deciding what to include in important documents like Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney, helps them understand the processes from start to finish.
It also brings clarity and certainty, so often lacking when loved ones don't plan ahead or share their thoughts on what they want to happen if they lose capacity to make decisions for themselves as well as after they die.
Talking the talk - tips and advice
When it comes to ensuring your wishes are clear and that your solicitor and children remain in the loop at all times, communication is key:
- Make sure you have a Will and that it's up to date - and tell your children what's in it as this will lessen the chance of your estate being contested, particularly if it contains something deemed 'unusual';
- Keep proper records, including an asset summary, which you discuss with your children and review periodically;
- When drawing up important legal documents, like LPAs, it's important to carefully consider the right person to act in your interests. Having an attorney who knows you well, and who you can be open and honest with, will enable them to feel confident making decisions on your behalf going forward;
- Tell your attorney exactly what you want - write down what you'd like to happen to your assets and finalise this before drawing up relevant legal documents;
- Make sure you review your LPA regularly and that you keep your children informed;
- Don't forget to talk about your digital footprint - things like your Facebook photographs, your digital music and film collections not to mention your on-line bank accounts.
A specialist lawyer in older client law will be able to help you decide exactly what is best for you in your circumstances.
And of course, if you don't have children or there is a trust issue with members of your family, talking to a specialist lawyer will also help you ensure your estate planning is up to date and relevant to you.
For help and advice, please contact Wards Solicitors' Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team, now one of the biggest in the South West. The majority of its lawyers are either student or full members of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE). In addition, Jenny Pierce, who leads the team, is an SFE director.