How is your personal legal housekeeping? A new year is a good time to make some legal resolutions. Make your will. Ensure property is in the right names. Even consider a pre or post pre nup. Enter into contracts with business partnership and shareholders rather than operating on trust. Introduce some standard terms of sale and purchase into your business.
Our private clients are not always up to date with matters such as making a will. Although the government is looking at changing the law to give better rights on death to cohabitants who are not married, those changes are not yet in effect and many people believe common law marriages are legally recognised. They are not. However you can protect your position through a well drawn up will and other legal documents. It may be that you want to ensure that if you die your live in partner does not inherit but your children from a previous marriage will do so and if the law may change in this field to give new rights to a partner you may want to ensure you write a will now to make it clear who will inherit.
Another sensible precaution before moving in with a partner, or before or during marriage or a relationship is to agree in writing about certain important financial matters. If one partner moves into the home of the other, will the property go into joint names? Will the parties have equal shares? If, before marriage, one partner has substantial assets and income they may want to protect if they divorce, it may be worthwhile after the recent court recognition of a foreign law pre-nuptial agreement (in the Radmacher case) to have lawyers draw up a pre—nuptial agreement. It may not always be watertight but it is likely the court will give some consideration to such documents, particularly if both parties have had legal advice and the terms are reasonable. We can help you draw up such documents.
If you are concerned about losing capacity as you get older, it may be sensible to draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney setting out how your affairs will be managed if you lose legal competence, such as through Alzheimer’s or dementia. Again we can help you draw up the relevant documents. Looking at your tax position before the end of the tax year on 5th April is also wise. You may have tax allowances to use and seek methods lawfully to reduce the impact of inheritance tax were you to die.