Personal finance

It's time to give your personal finances a thorough spring clean

Diego Maradona left an estate of $90m but no will, when he died of heart problems on November 25 2020. Picture by: Ricardo Mazalan

Well, Spring is almost upon us, just another few weeks before the clocks switch to summer time, and we see some longer evenings from here on in.

Spring is, of course, always the perfect time for a thorough spring clean – not just of our house, but also of our finances.

Which is why I'd like to tell you about America's richest dog.

Lulu is an eight-year-old border collie who lives in Nashville, and found herself inheriting a $5 million fortune when her owner, a wealthy businessman, passed away aged 84 last November.

In his will he had stipulated that a trust be created to manage the money, to secure the wellbeing of Lulu for the rest of her days. He also nominated a trusted friend to supervise the dog's care.

It was a good reminder of the less well known tasks you can settle with a will: Taking care of a pet, nominating guardians for your children if you both should die before they turn 18, even leaving money to charity, as well of course as the main role of a will, to stipulate exactly who should benefit from your estate, and how much each of them should receive.

By setting your wishes out clearly, your will can also vastly speed up the transfer of your money to your family, so that they avoid possible financial hardship when you're gone.

The family of football star Diego Maradona know all about these problems, because he had no will in place when he died of heart problems on November 25 last leaving an estate of some $90m.

Things were made more complicated as he had lived in many countries during his life, and his legal team now have their work cut out to seek information from each of those, to calculate his outstanding debts.

Football fans will know what I mean when I say not even ‘the hand of God' can speed things along there.

Could this be the month for you to finally get around to making your will – or updating it, if your circumstances have changed?

Your spring clean can also serve to fill any gaps that may remain in your financial ‘tool kit'.

You could, for example, ask us to help you to tweak your pension saving. You may have a little cash to spare - despite the tribulations of the past year, it has certainly saved many of us the money that would have gone on social life, eating out, hairdressers and personal care, and even travel and petrol costs.

Could this be the ideal time to make additional pension contributions, and get that money growing strongly for you, in the longer term?

Then there's insurance. If you have a family or dependents, it makes good sense to have life insurance of course, but also to take out critical illness insurance to replace your income, or pay off your mortgage, if you have to give up work due to the sudden onset of a major health condition.

Then we can help you look at your savings. You may have one or more Isa accounts, or want to set one up.

Again, the end of this tax year on April 5 is a crucial date; if you have not used up this year's Isa allowance of £20,000, you can put additional funds into your Isas before your allowance expires on that date.

Putting our finances in order would be a great use of the next few weeks, and could certainly put a ‘spring' in your step.

After all, we can't all be as lucky as Lulu!

Michael Kennedy is an independent financial adviser and pensions specialist and can be contacted on 028 71886005. Further information on Facebook at Kennedy Independent Financial Advice Ltd or at www.mkennedyfinancial.com

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Personal finance