We can be pretty confident that putting your legal affairs in order rarely features in any list of the most popular New Year resolutions. But sorting out the future security for you and your family is likely to be of greater long term benefit than giving up alcohol for January or paying for that gym membership you probably won’t use.

So, here are a couple of suggestions for those resolutions which will make a difference:-

First resolution – Check whether you have an up-to-date Will.

If you are one of the nearly 2/3rds of adults in UK who do not have a will, then you could be storing up all sorts of problems for your loved ones. And those figures get worse when you look at the older age group. Nearly half of those aged over 55 do not have a will.

There is often a belief – entirely misplaced – that status as next of kin is enough to enable a surviving family member to make decisions about the estate of a loved one. That is simply not the case in law. If you do not get round to drawing up that Will, you will have to rely on the law to decide the financial fate of your loved ones. To avoid this, you need to put in place an up-to-date Will. It is worth consulting the experts. You will have control over who manages your estate and where your money goes upon your death. You can make vital tax effective choices about how your estate is divided. This can save a lot of heartache (and costs) for grieving relatives who are left to pick up the pieces after you have gone.

If you get as far as thinking about doing a new will, you might consider doing it “on the cheap” with anon-line will. The problem is that there is absolutely no guarantee that it will save you money.You should perhaps ask yourself whether unqualified, unregulated and uninsured self-styled experts are the best people to trust with such a potentially complex matter.   The trouble with “saving money” with the cheap option is that by the time the potential problems have emerged following your death, you are not around to clear up the mess.

Sadly, disputes over wills are now all too common. Court battles over the management of wills have more than doubled in two years. When it goes wrong, the survivors can end up spending a lot of money contesting the Will. Many of these disputes arise from poor drafting or negligent advice relating to the preparation of the will. In the world of complicated modern finance and more and more blended families, there are many pitfalls that can catch out the unwary. If you are planning anything complicated, typing up your own detailed instructions on the distribution of your worldly goods after your death might end up having little more authority than a shopping list. So, beware a cheap will – it may cost you more than you bargained for

Second resolution – Put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney

We often assume that this is only necessary as you get older and the risk of dementia increases. If you care about what will happen to your assets after you die, you ought to care at least as much – if not more – about keeping those assets safe whilst you are still alive. Making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enables someone you have chosen the legal right to look after your finances or health and welfare when you are unable to do so yourself. This is not merely something the elderly need nor is it limited to dealing with matters when someone has lost mental capacity. We never know what is round the corner. An accident might leave you unable to deal with your affairs on a temporary basis. An LPA allows your appointed attorney to act on your behalf until you are able once more to take control of your affairs.

Putting an LPA in place is a little like taking out life insurance. You hope never to need it but can at least be confident that you have done your best to help your loved ones cope at a difficult time. You must be mentally capable to make an LPA so – just like a Will – if you don’t have one by the time you need it, it is too late.

A New Year’s resolution to sort out that that legal paperwork you have been meaning to do may not sound much fun but will pay dividends in the future. If you want to make sure that things are in order, it is worth consulting the experts. For help on all issues regarding wills and lasting powers of attorney, contact Richard Wadsworth, Susan Davies or Roz Caldwell at Scott Bailey on 01590 676933 or email [email protected]