Legacy planning is all about what we wish to leave behind for the next generation. For some of us it might be wealth but actually there is more than just wealth. It is tradition, assets which could be jewellery or the family heirlooms or even a business that you want to leave to your children so that they can maintain and ensure the continuity of all the years of hard work that you put into it.
Whatever you wish to leave behind, you should plan carefully so that your wishes can be carried out in the way that you want and not as decided by law if you were to suddenly pass on without stating your wishes in the form of a will
Some people do not like the subject of writing wills because it means they are thinking of what happens after they die. Once they die they probably feel like they are not here to see what happens and do not care too much about it. If you are serious about planning for your family, you should consider a will as it means that your final wishes on how you want your assets to be divided can be carried out according to your plans. Anyone who cares about their family would not want to leave a mess for their family to clear up after their death so you can make things easier for them if you think about this in advance so you do not leave a mess to clear up.
It is never too early to start writing a will but it can be too late. Once you are gone you are gone. What was said in the past doesn’t hold unless it is written down in a legal document called a will. You do not need to worry about putting things on paper too early because things change. Even if your wishes change it is still possible to make amendments to your will when you are still alive. As long as you are of sound mind, you can make changes yourself. You can even assign a Lasting Power of Attorney, ie someone who is legally appointed by yourself, to make changes to the will if you are alive but not of sound mind (in other words not capable of doing this yourself)
So even if you make a will in your 40’s and by the time you are in your 50’s things have changed eg you got divorced and don’t want to leave things to certain people that were on the original will, you can change it. When you reach your 60’s things might change again and you can amend again. Until the day you pass on.
Dying intestate means dying without a will and if this was to happen, the state will decide what happens with your estate. Generally the wife will inherit your assets and then the children. Complications will arise if you have children from previous marriage as they will also want some of the assets. You can only avoid this if you have a will in place.
In some countries when you die your estate will be subjected to inheritance taxes. This can be a complex area and will require specialist advice from professional financial advisors or tax advisors. If your intention is to leave assets to your family, probably the last thing you wanted was for the family to be saddles with a huge tax bill which they could only settle by selling the asset you wanted to leave them. That would defeat the whole purpose of your plan.
It is possible to sometimes gift the assets during your lifetime without incurring inheritance tax. Again this should be considered as you can then give assets directly to the people you wanted to own the assets after your death. Such gifts then do not need to be included in the will as they will not form part of the estate at the point of death
Even though the last will and testament would be a legally binding document, if you are really close to your family, there is no reason why you cannot talk to them about this and explain why you want certain assets to be apportioned in the manner that your choose. This could avoid having family disagreements in the future due to misunderstanding. Obviously much better to know up front what your family members have in mind after your departure from this world
Given the potential complexities involved in dividing up your estate, it would be a good idea for you to engage independent experts to help you assess the risks dividing up the estate in accordance with your wishes. They can advise on the tax aspects and legal aspects. There may also be some practical aspects to consider so do make an early start and make some plans for leaving the legacy you want to be remembered for.