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Member guest blog: Don't leave your legal planning too late!

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

This week's guest blog is courtesy of Elin Dukes, a specialist lawyer. Read on to find out her top tips!

After spending over 10 years as a lawyer specialising in wills, estates, and lifetime legal planning, I have recently taken the plunge to set up my own company.

Having gained experience throughout my career on a variety of complex matters involving business property, agricultural property, international elements, and significant tax considerations, Wills and Estate Experts Limited offers cost-effective expert legal planning without compromising on skill and experience.

I am a full accredited member of STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) as well as an associate member of the Society of Will Writers. Alongside private practice, I am a tutor, lecturer and course author for various legal education providers, helping to train and mentor future generations of lawyers in my area of expertise.

Why make a will?

Many adults have never made a will, despite owning property, running their own businesses, or having children. If you die without a valid will, predetermined laws of intestacy will dictate who receives all your worldly possessions. Intestacy laws are complex and often do not align with your personal wishes.

As a brief overview, if you were to die intestate leaving a spouse or civil partner and no children, your spouse/civil partner would receive everything. However, if you also leave children, your spouse/civil partner would only receive your personal belongings (such as jewellery, artwork, etc.) the first £270,000 of your estate, and 50% of whatever remains. Your children would receive the remaining 50%.

At first glance, this may sound fine, but intestacy laws do not apply to partners with whom you cohabit but are neither married to nor in a civil partnership with; nor do intestacy laws apply to stepchildren. Relying on intestacy provisions could, therefore, cause financial hardship to your partner or to other loved ones.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership and have no children, intestacy laws dictate which family members should receive your assets. This may include family members with whom you do not get on, or ones who you have never even met. In some cases, intestacy can result in everything passing to the Crown.

The only way to avoid potential issues is to ensure that you have a valid will, prepared by an appropriately experienced professional. Even a seemingly straightforward will can result in dispute if not carefully drafted. Wills are not a “one size fits all” document and I can advise you on the issues to consider for your situation as a whole, taking into account your assets, your family, and your personal circumstances.

What about Powers of Attorney?

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) have become increasingly popular since their introduction in 2007.

Whilst it is a forgone conclusion that everyone will eventually require a will, LPAs are often considered more of an insurance document – after all, we all hope that the time will never come when we are no longer able to make our own financial or healthcare decisions. Unfortunately, however, it is not uncommon for our minds to simply fail to keep up with our bodies.

LPAs allow you to specify who should help you to make certain decisions if you are no longer able to make them for yourself. Such decisions may include paying your day-to-day expenses, selling your property or investments to fund care services, or ensuring that your medical wishes are honoured.

Though it is never nice to have to think about the possibility of losing mental capacity, it is important to consider and set out your wishes so that you can be sure your most trusted loved ones are able to step in smoothly and seamlessly should the worst happen. Without pre-planning your legal affairs in this way, it would be up to your family, or friends, to apply to court for an order allowing them to deal with your affairs. This is a very costly and time-consuming process which would leave you vulnerable and without anyone to assist until the matter is resolved.

Outside of work, I am particularly passionate about women’s causes, and I volunteer for various women’s charities. Being a member of Co-Women and being amongst such a supportive group of fellow female entrepreneurs is both a comfort and an inspiration. For this reason, Co-Women members receive 20% off all my services. It is also important to me that no woman should be denied access to legal services due to financial hardship or any other reason. If you are in a difficult situation and need to ensure that your legal affairs are in order to protect yourself and your loved ones, do get in touch and I will be happy to help in whatever way I can.

I can be contacted on for any questions or a free no-obligation initial chat.

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