Estate planning: probate, Wills and end-of-life arrangements

Nobody likes to think about their death, but, along with the dreaded taxes, coming to the end of life is an inevitability that we must all face one day. One way to ease the burden for loved ones left behind is to make plans now for end-of-life arrangements, including wishes around medical care, funeral arrangements and estate planning. The more decisions and plans you can make now, the easier your loved ones and executors will find caring for you in your final days, unwinding your affairs after your passing and planning a suitable send-off.

End of life arrangements

For many people, end of life planning mainly centres on medical arrangements. This includes making decisions around what treatment you would like to receive – if any, where you would like to be cared for and whom you would like to be involved. These wishes can be drawn up into official paperwork. For example, the decision not to be resuscitated in certain circumstances is known as ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (‘DNR’) form.

A solicitor can help you draw this up if it is your wish not to receive treatment after a certain point in your medical care. Likewise, a Living Will helps you make your wishes known on paper in the event that you are no longer able to communicate in any other way. Power of Attorney paperwork gives permission for named individuals or organisations to take decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.

Last Will and Testament

This end-of-life paperwork is probably the most common and familiar of all to most people. It lays out what you want to happen to your estate – property, possessions, vehicles, savings etc. – and who you want to inherit it. You can detail your wishes for the care of children, other dependents and pets. You can state your preference for a burial or cremation and leave legacies to charities and organisations too.

Last Will and Testament

Your Will is a crucial document for estate planning purposes. This is because if you die without making a Will, your estate is distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which may not reflect what you would like to happen. Again, a family solicitor can help you draw up your Will so it is legally binding and clearly laid out. You can also use your Will to name your executor – the person or individual whom you entrust with the distribution of your estate, from applying for probate to contacting all beneficiaries and ensuring that they receive their legacies.

Estate planning

Once the main paperwork is in place, it is good practice to set aside time for estate planning. This has many benefits for you and your intended beneficiaries. First, it provides peace of mind and clarity at what could be difficult and emotional times for everyone involved. It can help protect your estate from legal challenges and reduce tax obligations in certain cases through savvy, legal tax planning.

You can plan to ring-fence certain parts of your estate for specific purposes, such as paying school fees, covering medical bills or providing deposits for future property purchases. It can also help you get a better grip on your finances and resources during your final years, so that you don’t have to worry about affording what you need in later life.

Other forms of estate planning include making tax-efficient investments and consolidating smaller savings accounts or liabilities to make them easier to manage. Other areas include setting up plans to transfer ownership or interests in businesses and bestowing gifts on children or setting up trust funds to help offset the tax they will pay on your death. A financial advisor or family solicitor can help you sort all of this out.

In fact, seeking professional advice is highly advisable for estate planning, medical wishes and writing Wills. This is because rules and allowances can change and it is best to work with the latest guidelines to get the most out of what you decide to set up and/or change. A probate solicitor will also know about current allowances for nil rate bands, as well as relevant exemptions and reliefs, to reduce the tax liable on your estate even further.

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