Preparing for the future: an expert's guide to estate planning
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With an average of over £9,000 in savings according to a recent study by Raisin, and the FTAdvisor reporting that the greatest wealth transfer in history is underway, it has never been more important to think about the future.
Deciding what you want to happen to your property, money and possessions when you’re older or after you’ve gone can be a daunting and challenging task, which is why it’s a good idea to seek professional advice.
Sue Wakefield, director at ZEDRA in Cheshire, has more than 30 years' experience helping clients protect their assets and manage their affairs through end-to-end estate planning and Trust management.
Here, she answers some of your most commonly asked questions about the different components of estate planning and how to ensure a secure future for you and your loved ones.
Q: What is estate planning?
A: Estate planning sounds quite grand but it’s basically about taking steps to protect and secure your wealth for your children, grandchildren and perhaps any charities you wish to support. The process involves putting together a succession plan that outlines your wishes for how you would like your assets to be dealt with in the event that you become incapacitated or pass away.
Q: Who needs an estate plan and why is it important?
A: It's a common misconception that estate planning is only for the very wealthy or elderly people. Everyone should at least have a will for peace of mind that their wishes will be adhered to after their death, rather than relying on intestacy. It is also important to update your will periodically – at ZEDRA, we recommend reviewing it every five years. As well as helping to protect families, estate planning can also look at the most tax-efficient ways of structuring your estate to save you money.
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Q: What is the difference between making a Will and estate planning?
A: Making a Will is usually the start of the estate planning journey. We can help you with writing a will, or we can review an existing will to make sure that it is fit for purpose. It is common for wills to be tweaked to reflect changing circumstances and legislation, such as the resident nil rate band from an inheritance tax perspective.
Another important decision is choosing an executor – in other words, a person who will deal with Probate and manage all aspects of the administration of the estate.
Due to the complexities of Probate, it is always a good idea to appoint a professional executor in your Will. It also means your family don’t have to carry the burden of administering your affairs when you’re gone.
A: Do I need Lasting Power of Attorney?
A: Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) are more commonly associated with the ageing population, but the pandemic has shown us that anyone can become vulnerable at any time – and made us consider what would happen if that was the case. We always discuss and recommend putting an LPA in place when we draft Wills so that it’s taken care of and safeguards the future. This way, you get to choose your attorney, whether it’s a solicitor, a specialist such as ZEDRA or a family member.
We also work with entrepreneurs and put in place specific Powers of Attorney for business purposes, to give peace of mind for ongoing management and running of their companies should they become incapacitated.
Q: What is the purpose of a Trust in estate planning?
A: Trusts come in many different forms, and one of the main purposes of them is to protect wealth and pass it onto future generations in a controlled way. One of the common situations we see is grandparents setting up Trusts for their grandchildren. We also work with people interested in philanthropy who want to set up a Trust to support their favourite charities.
At ZEDRA, as well as setting up Trusts for our clients we can become a professional trustee, which means we deal with the ongoing legal regulations, tax and compliance matters for the Trust which are often found to be too onerous for clients or their families to take on personally.
Q: How can I lower my estate taxes?
A: There are a number of ways you can lower the inheritance tax your family might incur when you die, which are completely legal and can include provisions made in your Will. For example, this could involve making the best use of inheritance tax allowances if you’ve got a property in your estate, or if you own a company.
Setting up a Trust in lifetime and making gifts during lifetime are two ways of potentially saving inheritance tax. However, it's essential that action is taken with full knowledge and understanding of the rules and implications.
Q: What is Probate?
A: To be able to legally deal with someone’s estate after they die, you need to apply for a Grant of Probate. At ZEDRA, we offer a completely scalable Probate service, where we can act as executor and carry out the full estate administration or assist by supporting your loved ones at various points through the process.
If you need help planning your estate, call Sue on 01565 748825 or visit zedraestateplanning.co.uk.