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Darlington solicitors calls on families to make legal and financial New Year’s resolutions

Elizabeth Armstrong

Latimer Hinks Solicitors, one of the North East’s leading law firms, is urging families in the region to undertake a financial and legal health check as their New Year’s Resolution.

The firm, which was recently recognised in the Chambers HNW Guide and the Legal 500, is launching a checklist in order to help keep personal affairs up to date.

Elizabeth Armstrong, a Director at Latimer Hinks, said: “Planning your estate is not a particularly festive subject, but the start of a New Year is a great time to get your affairs in order. The lack of a will means that on death, the intestacy rules would apply, meaning loved ones could miss out, and an out of date will could lead to lengthy disputes and issues for your family.”

Make or review your will

Recent research has found that as many as two thirds of adults have not made a will, and one in ten people with wills plan to update them to include grandchildren, however have not taken action yet.

Check your will after marriage

Approximately 1.5 million people do not realise that getting married automatically revokes a previously made will.

Set up a trust

Elizabeth says: “It is wise to consider using trusts to protect assets for your family, as now more than ever, the traditional ‘nuclear family’ is becoming a thing of the past, and homes can consist of multiple, blended units. A trust can ensure that your children’s inheritance is protected should your partner re-marry after you die, or if you are already part of a blended family.”

Create a lasting power of attorney

While you’re healthy, it can be prudent to create a Lasting Power of Attorney, as this will allow you to appoint someone to make decisions about your health care or control your financial assets should it ever be needed.

Make cash gifts

Elizabeth says: “If you have surplus income, take advantage of a valuable Inheritance Tax (IHT) exemption by making regular cash gifts as these would not be taken into account when you die. It is wise to seek advice before doing this to ensure you secure the best tax treatment.”

Take advantage of exemptions

Ensure that you take full advantage of the reliefs, exemptions and allowances for IHT. Check the wording of your will to ensure that the “new” Residence Nil Rate Band can apply against the value of your home as this can lead to further IHT savings.

Elizabeth added: “While estate planning may not seem a particularly romantic or festive subject, it does need to be considered seriously, and the New Year is the ideal time to start. It’s sensible to begin 2019 knowing that all your affairs are in order, and you can then relax for the rest of the year.”