The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world has taught us a lot of things. In particular, it has shown that you never know what life has in store or what’s around the corner. It has made many of us reflect on what’s important to us and perhaps realign our time and energies to those things we most value.

It’s moments like these when we ask ourselves whether our financial affairs are in order, and what would happen if we were no longer here to look after them ourselves. If you’ve been thinking about planning ahead but have been putting it off for one reason or another, maybe now is a good time to focus on what you would want to happen in this event, and what you would like to do to make the lives of your loved ones easier in that situation.

It needn’t be complicated. At a basic level, you simply need to make a list of all your assets and liabilities with estimated values. Then consider what you would like to happen to them, and who you would like to benefit. You will need to think about who needs financial support or looking after, and who is dependent on you.

Then the most important question: have you got an up-to-date Will in place? If not, then this is the most essential task to set yourself. If you die intestate (without leaving a Will), your assets may be divided up in a way that isn’t what you wanted. It also leaves your heirs with a potential mess to sort out that could involve many months of protracted paperwork. It’s also worth remembering that if you have assets in more than one country, for example a holiday home in France, you may need a separate Will for these.

If your affairs are relatively straightforward, getting a Will in place may be all you need to do. If things are more complicated you might want to think whether there are ways you can simplify them, perhaps by consolidating accounts, or possibly bringing some of the assets under one roof using a trust or foundation. It’s important though that you think about the tax consequences of these actions and take advice where necessary

Advisors can also help with assessing whether there will be material tax liabilities in the event of your passing and if there is something you can do in the short term to minimise these. For example, perhaps you could gift assets now, or take out life assurance.  It’s also a good idea to start sharing your plans with the next generation so they understand your wishes and nothing comes as a shock.

Once you make a start, putting your financial affairs in order isn’t as daunting as you think and can provide peace of mind that you have prepared as well as you can for the future. For those of you who have already spent time in the past on this, now may be a good time to review things to ensure any updating is done in the light of changing circumstances or new legislation.

If this has made you think you should take a look at your financial affairs then please get in touch with your adviser. Alternatively please get in touch with Leonie Kerswill lkerswill@bostonmfo.com or Rachael Hughes rhughes@bostonmfo.com and we will be happy to let you have our thoughts.