With sporting endeavour capturing the nation’s attention, you cannot ignore the incredible fitness of our sportsmen and women. Whilst it would be no easy task to try and match this physical strength, you can easily take matters into your own hands to ensure that your own personal affairs are fit for purpose and healthy. Here we look at a few simple steps to get your life planning finely tuned without breaking a sweat.

On your marks, get set, GO!

1. Make a will

As simple as that. By making a will you can take control of who will inherit your estate and on your terms. This helps to avoid unexpected outcomes, costs and tax. Crucially, a will can be an important tool in ensuring your loved ones are protected in the future should you not be around.

Will already made? Don’t stop there – like our athletes, make you sure your will stays in shape to maintain its fitness for purpose. Dust off that will and check that it reflects your current wishes. It is worth reviewing your will every five years or sooner if your life circumstances have changed since you made it.

Do you co-habit with a partner but are not married or are in a civil partnership?

The rules here are possibly not what you would expect. There are no automatic rights for co-habitants and it is very important that co-habitants put in place wills. With a will in place, an unexpected death can create an unhelpful and distressing outcome both financially and emotionally for all involved.

Legal rights

Scots succession law provides certain protection form disinheritance and forced heirship rules. These are called legal rights and apply to spouses/civil partners and children. These are automatic and fixed entitlements which arise on death. Where the intention is to e.g. exclude a child from inheriting, legal rights must be carefully considered.

2. Power of attorney

It is equally important to ensure that you have a power of attorney in place and it is up to date. Your attorneys can act on your behalf if you are unable to do so. If you do not make a power of attorney and for whatever reason become incapable of acting, your loves ones or the local authority may have to apply to the court to become your guardian. This is a distressful, slow and expensive process.

Without one in place, assets can be frozen and welfare decisions cannot be taken while e.g. a family member has to begin the slow process of obtaining a guardianship order from the sheriff court. Spouses, civil partners, co-habitants and children have no default power as next of kin to make decisions on your behalf if you lose or have diminished capacity. We have previously blogged in connection to “Start the Conversation” campaign which seeks to encourage more people to grant powers of attorney and help individuals and families take control of managing their loves one’s affairs in a straightforward and efficient way if capacity is lost.

3. Title deeds to your home

You’re on the last lap; time to check your title deeds. These should be up to date and consistent with the terms of your will. The title to a house which is held e.g. by “husband and wife and the survivor” may benefit from a change to simplify to “husband and wife”. This can have asset protection benefits in wills.

4. Death benefits

Nearly there – these are the “assets” people might not think about. Death benefits associated with life policies, (employment) death in service or pensions can be very valuable. You should ascertain what these benefits are and the best way for these to be dealt with on death. With recent significant changes to pensions rules, this an area which should be reviewed to make sure your arrangements are up-to-date. This is certainly one area where we cannot help alone and the input of good financial advice is fundamental to arriving at the correct and joined up solutions for protecting and securing death benefits to best help your loved ones.

5. Assets abroad

Finally, attention at this time of year often turns to sunnier climes. For those with foreign assets within the EU, EU-wide (broadly) changes to succession law came into force in August 2015 which open up the possibility that Scots law (and thus your Scottish will) can be selected to apply to govern succession to a foreign asset rather than the law of the country in which the asset is situated.

This will be particularly relevant for those with land and buildings in an EU country. To find out more on this potentially very helpful EU rule change, read this blog. This remains the rule until any final Brexit settlement alters the position.