Search for ’5 things to do before you die’ on the internet and you’ll most likely come up with bungee jumping from Sydney Harbour Bridge or swimming with turtles in the Maldives. However, a list of fairly simple but essential tasks you should consider undertaking before you die will prove to be much more useful to you and your loved ones in the long term, albeit a bit more boring. Devote a chunk of time to sorting your house out using this handy list and you’ll feel re-energised to tackle that bucket list!
Make a will
Making a will is probably the most commonly known thing to do and yet currently over half of us don’t do it. Dying intestate effectively means that others get to decide who gets your estate (your property, possessions and money). This may mean it may not go to people who you’d like it to – for example unmarried partners – and also cause family and friends unnecessary stress and potential delay in benefiting from anything you’d like them to inherit. Making a will does not have to be a lengthy or costly activity, with DIY kids available from £10. However, if your estate is more complex, perhaps with property abroad or a family business involved, it’s wise to seek professional help. Solicitors’ fees will start at around £150 for a simple will.
Appoint an executor
An executor is the person who carries out your wishes, as specified in your will. This could be a family member, friend or professional. This can include activities like cancelling bank accounts, paying off debts or selling a house. It’s really important that you talk to the person you’d like to be your executor and check they’re comfortable with being appointed.
Securely store important documents and contact details
To make your executor’s life easier, it’s important to find and safely store the key documents they are going to need. These include: birth and marriage certificates and divorce papers; bank statements and share certificates; pension plan certificates; property deeds and car ownership paperwork and any tax certificates, such as your P60. It’s also helpful to note down all the key pieces of information they will need such as your bank account details and any regular payments that will need cancelling such as magazine subscriptions.
You then need to find a secure place to store your will and other estate planning documents and let your executors know where they are. Documents can simply be stored in a lockable filing cabinet or safe in your house as long as you remember to share any codes to access them! Solicitors will also store wills securely. Alternatively, Mydigisafe offers a digital solution to securely store all your documents. Click here for further details.
Try to pay off debts and consider inheritance tax
If you can clear as many of your debts as possible, it will make it easier for your executors to carry out your instructions. This is particularly important for unsecured debts like credit card bills and loans that aren’t secured against your house.
It is also advisable to consider the inheritance tax your loved ones might have to pay on your death and try to plan to minimise the impact on your inheritance. If not, up to 40% of its value could be taken up in tax. Which? provides a useful basics guide and a tax calculator to help you assess what this might look like for your heirs.
Consider a Power of Attorney
In addition to a will, you may wish to consider creating a legal document called a power of attorney that gives an attorney, appointed by you, the legal right to deal with your affairs prior to your death, in circumstances where you are no longer able to do this yourself. Again, it is a good idea to try and identify a person you would trust to do this and have a conversation with them prior to officially appointing them. Age Concern provides a useful list of things to think about when appointing an attorney and we have written a blog on the topic here.
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