Make Christmas Time Decision Time

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It’s the time of year when parties and other festivities flourish and, in particular, families manage to get together to celebrate Christmas. In many cases, this is the only time parents, children, grandchildren and friends are able to meet up, particularly if they don’t live close by.  

At Swansea Legal Solutions, we are urging people to use this time when family are spending time together to discuss and make plans for the future including wills, estate planning, trusts etc.  It’s an opportunity to discuss your plans with your loved ones so that everything is out in the open and there are no surprises when you have sadly passed away.  Here are the top three things you need to talk about and put in place.

Your Will

Many families avoid discussing inheritance plans and what’s in a will with their beneficiaries altogether. This can sometimes leave relatives to try and work out what their wishes really were, which can cause upset and disagreement at a time of grief.

The first step is to try and move away from thinking of estate planning as solely a financial conversation. Instead, think about it as one where you weigh-up what is important to you and your family and the type of legacy you wish to leave – and then discuss these decisions with your loved ones.  Talking to your beneficiaries about your intentions is the first step in ensuring everyone understands your wishes leaving no room for misunderstandings at a later date. What’s more, giving your family the heads-up that you’d like to talk about your will at a set time gives them a chance to think things over.

These conversations don’t have to be uncomfortable if approached in a way that works for you and your family. There’s no blueprint for when and how you should have ‘the talk’ as it really depends on the relationship you have with your family. You may wish to speak to family members individually or bring everyone together for this discussion. 

Topics to cover should range from ensuring your family know where your important papers are kept and what will happen if your family grows e.g. would you want to leave money to future grandchildren for example.


During this discussion, you may also wish to talk about who will be the executors of your will. These need to be specific people (usually two) who will take legal responsibility for carrying out your instructions. Your executors must be over 18 years old and they can also be a beneficiary of your will. Alternatively, you could appoint professional executors such as a solicitor or accountant.

Executors should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes. Most married couples tend to choose their spouse as their executor but it is important to have a second executor in place in case you were both in an accident for example. Family members tend to be the first choice by most people as they tend to be people you can trust and, as they are likely to be beneficiaries, they will have everyone’s best interests at heart.

It is advisable to tell your executors that you have appointed them and let them know where the original wills are stored. There is nothing wrong with giving them a photocopy of your will for their own reference. It is also sensible to keep up to date information about your executors in all relevant paperwork in case move so that they can be located when needed.

Creating a Property Protection Trust

If you own a property with a spouse or partner, it’s a good idea to create a property protection trust through your will is to prevent the wealth of the person who dies first from being used to pay for care fees for the spouse. Plus your children will inherit more of your estate. There are many valid reasons why you should set up a property protection trust and you can read about these here.

It’s important to advise your beneficiaries if you have set up a trust so that they understand the reasons for this important decision.

You will also need to make a decision about appointing trustees and advise them accordingly. A trustee is a person who takes responsibility for managing the trust when you have passed away. Everything trustees do must be in the interests of the beneficiaries for example, it may be stated in the trust that funds are to pay for an older person’s care fees. If that’s the case, the money can’t be used for anything else.

If the trust is a ‘discretionary trust’, the trustees will have more freedom to make decisions. For example, if the trust is set up to benefit a number of young children, the trustees can use it for anything they agree is for the benefit of any one of the children – such as paying for college fees.

Lasting Power of Attorney

None of us know when we may lose our mental capacity to make decisions about our lives including our welfare and financial situation. So, in addition to talking to your family about your will, it’s also a good time to discuss setting up Lasting Power of Attorney and to agree who will be your attorneys. Again, by having this discussion and agreeing all the arrangements with your nearest and dearest, you will have peace of mind that your wishes are being followed should you not be able to make decisions for yourself in the future.

There are many more areas of estate planning which may need to be discussed with your family but these are the main ones which should not be left to misinterpretation. So, use the time when you get together this Christmas to have that all-important discussion with your family so you can relax and enjoy the festivities with peace of mind.

Seasons’ greetings from us all at Swansea Legal Solutions.