Get the law on your side in 2011

 

The start of a new year is an excellent time to take stock and consider whether you are doing as much as you could to provide legal protection for yourself and your family.

Thankfully, there are several simple steps you can take to put your affairs in order and reduce the risk of problems in future.

Here are three simple measures you may wish to consider.

PROBATE

Make sure you have a will and that it is up to date

Many people do not realise that they could cause enormous problems for their families if they fail to make a valid will.

It not only creates unnecessary heartache, it can also lead to legal battles between relatives and dependants.

If you die without having made a will then you are said to have died intestate. It means no one can be sure how you meant your estate to be passed on and so it has to be dealt with in a way laid down by law.

If there is no will, children, grandchildren and even surviving spouses may have to take legal action to receive the inheritance to which they believe they are entitled. Every week in the courts there are cases involving families who are in dispute because someone dear to them failed to make a will.

Most of these problems can be avoided if you make a will stating exactly how you want your estate to be divided.

If you already have a will then it is a good idea to make sure that it is up to date. If it was made several years ago it may no longer reflect your current circumstances, especially if you have divorced and remarried.

A solicitor can make the process quick and easy while ensuring that all the paperwork is carried out properly in accordance with the law.

If you would like to speak to Garside & Hoy’s Will expert, please call Julia Newland on 020-8427-5656 complete the online enquiry form or email Julia.Newland@garsideandhoy.co.uk.

FAMILY

Draw up a legal agreement with your cohabiting partner

Contrary to popular belief, cohabiting couples do not have the same automatic legal protection as married couples.

For example, if your home is in your ex-partner’s name then you will have no automatic right to stay there if you are asked to leave. Nor will you automatically be entitled to a financial share in the house, even if you helped to pay for it over several years.

If you are cohabiting you should also remember that your partner won’t have to pay maintenance for you if your relationship ends, even if you gave up your job to look after the children while he or she went out to build a lucrative career. They will, however, have to help support any children you have together.

Many couples protect themselves by drawing up living together agreements which state in advance how their assets should be divided if they eventually separate.

This can prevent disputes later if the worst does happen, although many couples find that the process of drawing up an agreement actually strengthens their relationship because both sides feel more secure and settled.

Please contact Bernadette Hoy, Garside & Hoy’s Family Law expert on 020-8427-5656, complete the online enquiry form or email Bernadette.hoy@garsideandhoy.co.uk  if you would like more information about family law issues.

Court of Protection

Create a Lasting Power of Attorney

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) allow you to take action now to protect your interests in case your mental capacity deteriorates at some point in the future.

LPAs enable you to nominate someone such as a family member or trusted associate to make decisions on your behalf if you ever lose the ability to do so yourself through illnesses such as dementia.

The property and finance LPA allows you to appoint someone to look after your financial affairs and the personal welfare LPA lets you grant an attorney authority over such matters as health care and the kind of treatment you receive.

There are safeguards to prevent the system being abused so you can prepare for the possibility of ill health secure in the knowledge that you can leave important decisions in the hands of someone you trust.

If you don’t have such arrangements in place then your family may have to go through complicated and time-consuming legal processes just to get the authority to help run your affairs for you. That is the last thing they want at a time when they will already be worried about you and your failing health.

LPAs should be drawn up with the help of a solicitor to ensure that they accurately express your wishes and protect your interests.

No one can be sure what the future will bring them in terms of their health, but LPAs can at least ensure that their interests are protected should the worst happen.

If you would like to speak to Garside & Hoy’s Court of Protection expert, please call Julia Newland on 020-8427-5656 complete the online enquiry form or email Julia.Newland@garsideandhoy.co.uk.

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