InsightsInsight - Coronavirus, Powers of Attorney, Wills and Probate - POSTED: March 27 2020
Lockdown: Use this time to get your legal affairs in order
How often have you said to yourself, I’ll sort out my Will when I get a spare five minutes?
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With the majority of us now being forced to not leave our homes due to lockdown, why not use this time to get your legal affairs in order?
1. Make or update your Will
If you do not have a Will, the law imposes statutory guidelines as to who should inherit your estate. This may not always be what you had intended, for example:
- Do not assume that because you are married your spouse will automatically inherit everything.
- If you are unmarried but have cohabited for several years this does not result in an automatic right to inherit.
- Have you made adequate provision for the rehoming of pets in the event of your death?
Drawing up a Will ensures that your wishes are legally binding once you have passed away and helps you take control of how you wish to leave your estate, rather than leaving it to chance.
Making a Will does not need to be a complicated process, even if you are stuck at home. One of our Private Client team would be happy to speak with you over the phone or by email to discuss what you would like to achieve and take your Will instructions.
Draft Wills can be sent out to you by post or email and different arrangements for signing can be made, depending on your circumstances. Don’t put off making a Will because you think it is a long drawn out process, as this needn’t be the case.
Even if you already have a Will, it is always a good idea to review it every few years, as your circumstances may have changed (for example you may have divorced, remarried, entered into a civil partnership, had children, or acquired assets which have increased your estate), or it may not be as tax efficient as it could be.
2. Make a Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a document which gives authority to another person to deal with your affairs if you are unable to do so. If you’re not going to be able to get out of the house for a long time, then these are very useful documents to have in place.
There are two types of LPAs, one relating to property and financial affairs (covering decisions about your property and finances) and one relating to your health and welfare (covering decisions about your care and medical treatment).
A common misconception is that both documents can only be used if you lose mental capacity. While it’s true that the documents (once registered by the Office of The Public Guardian) can be used if you lose mental capacity, the property and financial affairs LPA can also be used even if you have not lost mental capacity, with your consent.
This means that if you are physically unable to sign something or are unable to get out of the house, the property and financial affairs LPA can still be used by your attorneys. If you are self-isolating this could be a very useful document to have in place – for example if you require help in getting to the bank, or going to the supermarket, you can ask your attorneys to assist you in doing this.
3. Make a General Power of Attorney
Preparing an LPA and having this registered is a fairly time-consuming exercise, taking around eight to 10 weeks in total.
With this in mind, and given the current situation, it may be worth considering a General Power of Attorney. This is a simple document that can be prepared as a matter of urgency and, once signed, is an active document which can be used straightaway. It does not have to be registered.
With a General Power of Attorney, an individual must have mental capacity to prepare the document, and the document is only valid while you retain your mental capacity. It’s important to stress that this should not be relied upon as a long-term document.
A General Power of Attorney, in times like these, would enable someone to act on your behalf, if you are physically unable to go out and about, for example, if you are in isolation.
The document can be drawn up in a matter of hours or days and, once signed, would immediately enable someone to undertake the tasks that you currently cannot do yourself.
4. Advance Decisions
If you lose mental capacity, would your next of kin know your views about the medical treatment you receive or other preferences you may have about your care?
If not, it’s worth considering an advance decision, which allows you to record your wishes in a legally binding document, giving you the comfort to know that they will be followed.
If you already have a health and welfare LPA in place it’s important to ensure that the two don’t conflict. If you have any questions regarding advance decisions, please get in touch with a member of our team who will be able to advise and guide you through this process so that the documents meet your specific needs.
5. Tax Planning
We always advise getting legal advice regarding Inheritance Tax planning, which can be done either through your Will or through lifetime tax planning.
For example, we can advise where it’s necessary to alter the structure of your Will, or, place assets into trust during your lifetime to take advantage of certain tax allowances.
By taking professional advice you can ensure that your estate does not suffer unnecessary tax charges on your death, leaving more behind for your chosen beneficiaries.
Brachers’ extended opening hours
We are now open for pre-arranged appointments via telephone or video call from 7.00am to 9.00pm Monday to Friday, and Saturday 8.00am to 12 noon, for those wishing to make a Will or LPA with one of our specialist solicitors. This is to take into consideration that many people are now spending the day home-schooling, as well as key-workers’ shift patterns.
What’s more, in recognition of the important work that key workers are doing, Brachers has also introduced an offer whereby they can now receive a £100 discount off a Will or LPA.
To book an appointment, please call us on 01622 690691 or email Private Client Partner Alexandra Gordon: AlexandraGordon@brachers.co.uk.
As much as it can in these unusual times, Brachers is working to a business as usual model, while still complying with Government guidelines. In line with this, the entire firm is now offering all meetings either by telephone or virtually.
If you require support on any of the issues listed above, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Can we help?
Take a look at our Wills and Probate page for useful information, resources, guidance, details of our team and how we may be able to help you
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