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There are crooks and bandits in every walk of life, Financial Advisers are no different, there are good ones and bad ones but how can you tell them apart? Listen to the bells!

Around 50 billion has been moved from final salary schemes to private pensions since the introduction of the so-called “pension freedoms”. That is a huge amount of money and in some cases people’s funds have disappeared leaving them with no pension or pension fund.

Giving up a guaranteed income for life to have access to your own pension fund is not something to take on lightly. In some cases however it is exactly the “right” thing to do but it is very much an individual decision based on your personal circumstances.

If you are approached in any way by anybody offering “free” pension advice the first alarm bell should ring.

Offers of huge returns from “odd” investments (forests, property not yet built etc.) should set off alarm bell number two. No decent IFA I know would ever promise to deliver any level of return at all; what will happen in future is simply unknowable.

As soon as the word “offshore” is mentioned that should set off alarm bell three. Investing abroad introduces currency risk and lack of regulatory control. Once your pension fund is in a foreign bank with someone else signing the cheques how secure would you be?

If you are still listening despite all the bells ringing in your ears a very good way to test the veracity of the “advice” you are receiving is to ask for their proposition in writing so you can check it out with your IFA. At this point the crooks will suddenly remember that there is no-time to do this; the deadline is tomorrow; we will send a courier; you will miss out on thousands of pounds etc; Alarm bell 4.

Good IFAs will adopt a very detailed and thorough approach to advising you on your pension options and choices and take a very long term view. There will also be no pressure to act quickly and no offers of high returns, it will also not be “free”!

See an IFA if you are tempted by pension freedoms, most of us are honest have your best interests at heart and do know what we are doing!
Call us on 630873

The Case Against DIY

Like many people over the last Bank Holiday weekend, I found myself in a DIY store.  I was in search of some brackets that would – I hoped – save the shelving unit that I had inexpertly put together.  Helpfully, the store provided some useful tips, but despite following their instructions carefully, my shelves didn’t turn out as I had hoped!

Trying to repair the shelves reminded me of how many people endeavour to make a will without seeking professional help.  As with my shelving, there is no shortage of guidance to be found online (and elsewhere).  However, whilst I simply had to put up with my disappointing shelves, getting things wrong when it comes to making a will can have far more serious consequences!

Our ‘find it online’ culture extends to all aspects of life, but it doesn’t always work when it comes to making your will.  I see many home-made wills and whilst it’s true that they usually achieve their objectives, they are often far from clear; in the event that someone queries the contents there is significant risk of a potentially expensive and protracted dispute.

Making a will without legal advice is fraught with problems; even correctly describing who you want to be your executors, who you want to have certain specific items, or who is to benefit from your residuary estate, can be difficult to get right.  And getting such things wrong can cause real problems.

I recently spoke to a gentleman who explained that he had made his own will and sought confirmation from me that this was something he could legally do.  I assured him that he was entitled to do so, but explained some of the pitfalls.  He rather sheepishly admitted that he had, in fact, erroneously dated his will.  It came as no surprise that he asked for my card and said he would call me.

When I see clients who want to make a will we often discuss issues that they had not previously given any thought to whatsoever, and this is especially true if their family circumstances are less than straightforward.  Such discussions invariably help them decide how they wish to deal with their estates and often avoid what might, at best, be dealt with in a clumsy way or, at worst, could cause considerable family heartache.

We always recommended that you get professional advice regarding your will.  For further help contact Martin King at Birkett Long LLP on 01268 244151 or