A Will is an official legal document that allows a person, “the testator”, to decide who they wish to appoint as executors to establish what exactly their estate compromises of upon their death, pay any debts and funeral expenses, make any specific gifts of money, property or possessions and to then administer their residuary estate to their selected beneficiaries upon their death.
In contrast, a Lasting Power of Attorney is a document that allows the “donor” to appoint “attorneys” to deal with their health and care or property and financial affairs if the donor is still alive but lacks the capacity to make their own decisions.
You are able to make a Will once you reach 18 years of age. Even if you do not own a property, it is a good idea to make a Will and update it throughout your lifetime as your circumstances change. Your “estate” consists of any assets you have and that could be stocks, shares, funds in bank accounts, investments, jewellery, antiques, vehicles, business property etc. So, even if you do not own a house, there would be an estate to be distributed.
If you do not make a Will, that estate could be distributed to those you may not necessarily wish it to go to under the Rules of Intestacy. For example, if you do not have a spouse, civil partner or children then your estate under the intestacy rules would be left to your parents. This may not be what you would wish to happen, your parents may already be financially comfortable and not wish to accumulate more wealth for tax reasons and you may wish instead for your estate to be shared equally between your siblings who would benefit from your estate.
Life events such as getting married and having children are ideal times to update your Will. It is important to note that marriage actually revokes any Wills before the marriage, meaning that your Estate might go to your new spouse. It is therefore crucial to make a Will prior to the marriage expressed to be in contemplation of the impending nuptials or, if this hasn’t been done, make a new Will as soon as possible following the marriage if you wish to benefit children or grandchildren from a previous marriage or relationship.
Complex family and financial circumstances are often aided by a well written Will when a loved one passes away as it can make the steps which need to take place very clear. The last thing families want is unrest or a lack of clarity following a bereavement, it is an enormous burden on top of the grief they are already going through.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) gives your appointed attorneys authority to act for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
If you do not have an LPA in place and then lose your mental capacity, it may be necessary for someone to make an expensive and time consuming application to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship order on your behalf so that they can make decisions for you. This person may not be who you would choose to make decisions on your behalf.
In order to make a Lasting Power of Attorney you have to understand what a Lasting Power of Attorney is and what it allows your appointed Attorneys to do on your behalf. You also have to have sufficient mental capacity to sign the completed Lasting Power of Attorney forms. People often say that they will ‘get round to’ making a Lasting Power of Attorney, unfortunately, people sometimes do not get round to making the LPA before it is too late and they have lost their mental capacity through an accident or a rapid illness. It is therefore important not to delay putting such important documents in place.
There are two types of LPA. An LPA for property and financial affairs which allows your attorney to conduct tasks such as arranging direct debits, discussing your finances with your bank, pay bills and debts, call organisations about your benefits and pensions etc. If you allow your attorney to make decisions prior to you having lost mental capacity it does not mean that they automatically make all of your financial decisions whilst you are still capable of making your own, it just means that you can instruct them to assist you if you wish, for example, if you are unwell for a period of time and do not feel up to going to an appointment at the bank or if you are hard of hearing and want them to discuss a financial matter with an organisation over the phone on your behalf.
An LPA for health and care decisions allows your attorneys to make decisions regarding your care, medical treatment, your nutrition and your accommodation. Your attorneys can only step in to make these decisions if you are incapable of making decisions regarding your own health and care, however, your attorneys cannot make decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment unless you specify this in your LPA. Your lawyer would take you through the LPA forms and explain the various options within the forms to you.
We can provide you with a number of professional services, whether that’s legal advice, information about LPAs and Wills, or any other legal issues you may face. Get in touch with us today to find out more information about our services and what we can offer you.