Questionnaire: Do I Need an Estate Plan?
Estate planning is an often neglected aspect of an individual’s financial affairs. It is generally thought that estate planning is necessary only for those with particularly large assets or particularly complex affairs and that, for the rest of us, inheritance issues will fix themselves. In reality, though, the number of people for whom inheritance and estate planning should be seen as a priority is very large.
What is estate planning?Estate planning covers a variety of different tasks. These could be as simple as writing or rewriting your will, or as complex as establishing a series of trusts to protect your assets from the probate process or Inheritance Tax. But estate planning can be a lengthy and expensive process, particularly if you use the services of a professional estate advisor. As such, you should think carefully about whether you need to draw up a dedicated estate plan. This questionnaire should help you decide.
- Does the value of your estate currently exceed the Nil-Rate Band? If so, your estate will be subject to Inheritance Tax and you should consider making a plan to minimise your tax bill.
- Do you have unusual or particularly complex family arrangements? For example, is there likely to be some dispute between potential beneficiaries upon your death? If so, you should ensure that you have a comprehensive plan in order to avoid confusion or argument.
- Have you already, or do you plan to, establish a trust? Trusts are frequently part of an estate planning process, but they also require planning in and of themselves. An estate plan is often needed to ensure that your trusts continue to fulfil the tasks they were intended to fulfil.
- Do you lack ‘natural beneficiaries’? In some cases it is unclear who should benefit from the estate of a deceased individual. In these cases an estate plan is often recommended to ensure that your affairs are dealt with as you would wish.
- Do you intend to appoint professional executors, or professional guardians? Many people choose to appoint professionals to deal with their financial affairs upon their death. In these cases it is imperative that you formulate an estate and inheritance plan with these individuals in good time, making sure that they are fully aware of your wishes and intentions.
ResultsIf you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions, estate planning may well be a worthwhile process for you. Bear in mind that this need not be too difficult a procedure, although the complexity of the plan will obviously depend on the complexity of your affairs. Many plans consist of simple documents like a will; indeed, ensuring that you have a watertight will is amongst the most important aspects of any estate or inheritance planning exercise.
Finally, think carefully before shelling out for professional inheritance advisors. Although dedicated advice is frequently necessary, you may wish to talk to your solicitor or accountant first. These individuals can often provide you with the information you need, at a fraction of the cost incurred if you were to go to a dedicated inheritance planner.