Matters in Life and Death

A friend of mine sadly died recently which brought to the forefront of my mind not only the grief and sorrow that follows a death but also the utter chaos that can ensue.

This friend was very much a ‘do it tomorrow’ person and sadly when tomorrow didn’t come many things remained ‘pending’.  Being involved with helping a somewhat dis-jointed family to sort the affairs I was reminded how important it is to keep matters in order, both from a personal and business point of view.

Woman sitting on pier overlooking lake at sunset

I will continue to use my friend as an example.  Significantly he had no Will and Testament, and no Lasting Powers of Attorney.

He was married with a step-daughter, but very recently separated, and has a step-daughter from his previous marriage. He has a son who he lost contact with and no one knows where to find him. There is no other immediate family and without a Will there is no clear direction from him as to whom his Estate should be left.  His Estate has to be distributed under the rules of Intestacy and in this case I’m sure his personal wishes (as I know them to be based on the relationships he had with these people at the time of his death) will not mirror the inheritance of his Estate in the eyes of the Law.

The property in which he lived was a rental property, but he failed to change the tenancy agreement from his ex-wife’s name into his new wife’s name after their marriage. Although he and his new wife had lived there together for the past 10 years, sadly she has no rights to remain in the property after his death.  The landlord has issued a ‘Notice to Quit’ and his wife is now homeless.  

My friend used not only his birth name but also a stage name.  He has financial accounts in both names, his passport is in one name and his driving licence in another.  Utility bills are also in different names all of which makes proving his death to close the accounts twice as difficult and unnecessarily complicated.

Whilst I have been wading through this minefield of dealing with his passing I was at least thankful that he did not have his own business.  Can you imagine the damage that could become a business where accounts are in different names; tenancy agreements are not updated; instructions as to who should take over the responsibilities are not left; provisions for who should have the shares in the company are not made; and effective provisions to deal with tax are not in place?  A Will can, if drafted properly and the client has sought the correct tax planning advice, minimise the effect of Inheritance Tax liability. Also if you own a business it is important to have a carefully drafted Will to accommodate for the business and to make sure it passes to the correct people. Business Property Relief is also a tax relief so this is crucial that business owners seek advice on this.

You will not be surprised to hear that my Will was updated last week with clear instructions and detailed information for my Executors!

Whether you are an individual, a business owner, or a partnership, matters in life should clearly be catered for in death, and a trip to a lawyer should not be on your ‘do it tomorrow’ list but on the ‘sort it today’ list. Definitely look in to Lasting Powers of Attorney and how they might benefit you, your beneficiaries, and your business during your lifetime, and put into place an effective Will to ensure matters are in place at the time of your death.

Most law firms can help and advise you with your Will to cover both personal and business wishes.  You could start today by emailing Paige George at Cozens-Hardy or Louisa Shailes at Rogers & Norton.

Davina Young
Marketing, Lamberts

Further reading:  Rules of Intestacy  Deaths and Wills