As we approach the new year, you will likely be making resolutions to improve your lifestyle - giving up smoking, joining a gym or healthy eating to name a few - these usually end up being broken a few months in.
This year, why not make a resolution that is both achievable and can protect you legally?
We have listed five essential legal issues that tend to be overlooked by the majority of our clients but are very important to consider.
Make a will
A will is very important, especially if you have assets, children or a partner. Statistically, two out of three people do not have wills which leads to their assets and estate not being passed in accordance with their wishes after they pass away.
If you do not have a will in place, your estate passes down under strict intestacy rules which lists a very specific line of inheritance limited to direct family members - and does not include unmarried partners. If there are no beneficiaries under intestacy rules your entire estate will pass to the Crown.
Having a will allows you to choose who inherits your estate and ensures that your wishes are followed through after you pass away and most importantly provides you piece of mind that the people (or pets!) you care about are protected.
Make a Lasting Power of Attorney
A lasting power of attorney is just as important as making a will.
If you lose the ability, either mentally or physically, to deal with your financial matters then no-one, including your next of kin and closest relatives, have a right to deal with any of your finances. Obtaining such a right in the absence of a lasting power of attorney will involve an expensive court application which will likely take months to obtain.
A lasting power of attorney allows you to decide who will deal with your finances if you fall ill or suffer an accident.
Prepare a Cohabitation Agreement
If you are unmarried and living with your partner, or planning on moving in together, you need to consider entering into a cohabitation agreement which sets out expectations in relation to finances and assets and what will happen if there is a separation.
Under current English law, unmarried partners who live together do not have any legal rights against each other's property or finances no matter how long the cohabitation is. This was recently covered by us in detail and you can read more about the current state of the law here).
Agree a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement
If you are planning on marrying, or have already married you will need to consider whether to put in place an agreement to set out how finances and assets are dealt with in the event of a divorce or separation.
A prenuptial (before marriage) or postnuptial (during marriage) agreement is essential to help avoid a costly and bitter divorce.
Such agreements are considered by a court in the event of a contested financial application at the time of a divorce and they will carry very strong weight if the correct legal procedure is followed when preparing and agreeing the conditions.
Formally End a Separation
If you have separated from your civil partner or spouse, it is essential that you consider pursuing a dissolution or a divorce if the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
Unless your civil partnership or marriage is dissolved through the courts you will remain legally tied to your civil partner or spouse. This will mean that your civil partner or spouse will still have the same legal rights to matters such as finances and inheritance no matter how long the separation.
In addition to this, the longer the civil partnership or marriage is (despite the separation), the greater entitlement each party has to seek financial relief from the other. For example, if your financial position improves after the separation you will be at risk of a financial relief claim.
Obtaining a dissolution or divorce, including a clean break or financial settlement will legally protect you and your future financial position as well as formally end your relationship.
What do I do now?
If you require advice, assistance or representation on any of the above matters our expert solicitors can assist you.
Our expert solicitors are always on hand for a free chat on 0208 004 0065, or you can fill in the enquiry form below and we will call you back to discuss your issues further.
The contents of this article is general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.