How to avoid financial chaos when you die

Disputes were common around the estate of late US comic and actor Robin Williams. Picture: PA

Disputes were common around the estate of late US comic and actor Robin Williams. Picture: PA

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AGNES Mallon offers advice on avoiding financial chaos in the event the worst happens.

1 MAKE A WILL

This is usually a straightforward process and the majority of people instruct a solicitor to make sure it meets legal requirements. A will is the first step to ensuring you have clarity over your wishes and control over who gets what and when . Without a will you must rely on the rules of intestacy, which can leave your estate divided up in a way you do not expect. Where couples are not married a will is essential to avoid the need to go to court to inherit from your partner.

2 USE A TRUST

Modern family structures can be immensely complicated. Divorce, second marriages and children from different relationships are not uncommon – witness the disputes surrounding the estate of the late US comic genius Robin Williams, pictured. A will can put in place trust structures which protect the value of your assets for your children while ensuring income for the surviving spouse or partner. As children can inherit at 16 in Scotland, a trust can control when younger children inherit large sums of money.

3 KEEP TRACK OF WHAT YOU OWN

Keep an up to date list of your assets and income/pensions with a copy of your will. This can avoid any assets being overlooked if your family are not fully aware of your financial affairs. Think about the value of your assets and whether inheritance tax (which is charged at 40 per cent on assets over £325,000) is likely to be an issue.

4 ACCESS TO YOUR MONEY

It is important to make sure that those you leave behind can still go on paying the bills while your estate is being wound up. Consider how this might be achieved through joint bank accounts and life insurance. If you are a business owner consider the effect your death will have on the business, both in the short and long term.

5 TALK IT THROUGH

It is always better to make your family aware of your wishes to avoid surprises. This can be important where you are doing something unusual in your Will and can, hopefully, prevent you leaving the unexpected legacy of a family fall-out after your death. Alternatively, keep a careful record of the reasons why you changed your will.

• Agnes Mallon is a solicitor at Gillespie Macandrew

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