We often hear the much trotted out phrase - fail to plan and you plan to fail. the same is true of what the legal and financial services industry call "later life planning", the trouble is knowing when ones "later life" will begin. well here is the secret, no one knows. None of know with any certainty when we will expire and none of us know what is around the corner.
So here goes with my top ten of things to do before you get old. Whilst written from the perspective of a lawyer who touches these issues on a daily basis they serve as checklist for getting your house in order and giving yourself some peace of mind for the future.
1. Write a Will. You will die, all of us do, we are mortal. Planning and preparing for an inevitable event is sensible, it is helpful and it is a way of easing the burden of your death for your loved ones left behind. It need not be expensive, and despite being asked many many times by clients, the fact that you have written a will does not mean that you will now die any time sooner that you would have done had you not written one.
2. Buy a funeral plan. I know I am concentrating on the end of life here but i'm sort of working backwards so bear with me. In the past ten years the average funeral has risen from approximately £1,500 to over £3,000. thats double. Buying it now you can make sure you get the send off you want, the resting place you want, the coffin, headstone, flowers, music etc that you want, and you have saved your loved ones the grief of struggling to plan an event which in many cases you have never expressed a wish about and saved them money too.
3. Prepare powers of Attorney. A stoke, a heart attack, dementia, alzheimers, catastrophic disability, brain injury - all of these things can have a crippling effect on your ability to take care of your personal welfare and your financial affairs. the inability of family to deal with your money and take decisions for you when you cant do it for yourself is heartbreaking and stressful. Consider it an insurance policy, hope you will never need to rely upon it, but put it in place and have the peace of mind knowing that you have done it. the best time to do this is today, well perhaps not today but tomorrow.
4. Take financial advice. Sit down with your financial adviser AND your Solicitor together, between them they can make sure you have the necessary in place, for inheritance tax planning, care home fees planning, insurance and assurance. Don't think of it as buying a product such as Will or a Policy, think of it as sitting down with two experts to get the best plan together for your future.
5. Understand your home ownership position. Will you ever be mortgage free? More of us are dying with outstanding mortgages in place. Are you a joint tenant with your spouse? Are you a tenant in common? what do these terms mean? what are the implications me? for my will? and for my loved ones?. Check out the position with your solicitor who will be able to tell you straightaway your status and the implications for your particular circumstances. Whats right for your mate Bob down the pub who is not married and lives in a flat owned by his girlfriend may not be right for you. Professional appropriate specific advice is the only advice you should heed.
6. Nursing home? Care Home? Living with family? know your options and know the costs. A Solicitor and a Financial adviser, preferably one from the Society of Later Life Advisers can help you understand the options. if you have wishes get them recorded in your Power of Attorney and make sure you have assets or plan to save to enable them to be fulfilled.
7. Give the house away? Do an equity release? on a rising tide of UK property prices we all are being lead to believe that we can rely on the value of the family home as our "pension" our "nest egg". True some people have done very well but others haven't, as first time buyers are increasingly in their thirties before buying their first home the early years of home ownership are being reduced, and whilst we buy our flat screen tellys, trot off on our foreign jaunts, and spend more on our cars that many monthly mortgage payments we are not living in reality, and the truth is that there may not be as much equity in the property as we hoped.
8. Pensions, ISAs, Bonds. Saving is not exciting, but it is comforting. Having resources behind you brings you options and choices, the more you have put away the greater your options and choices. Start early, even if just a little at a time you will be amazed at how it mounts up.
9. For business owners, you have an added burden of being responsible for others beyond your own family. What happens to the business if you die? What happens to the business if you don't die but can't work? what happens to the business if you don't die, can't work and can't take decisions. EVERY business considering its disaster planning (i'm not talking about fire flood or data loss here) should start with its key individuals and ask the question "what happens if...............". Know the answers, make sure the answers are the ones that ensure the business survives, and then move on. Your employees will thank you for it, and your family will thank you for it.
10. Keep fit, Keep active, stop smoking, cut down on your drinking, eat healthily, lose weight. We know we all should, we know the statistics, we know people live longer and better lives if they stick to these simple rules, but we are human, and be it diet advice, or legal advice only some of the message gets through. Why not make 2016 the year that you plan for your advancing year? It is later than you think.