Looking after your loved ones when you’re gone

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This is a practical guide on how to put your affairs in order.

Telling your loved ones that you are putting your affairs in order and protecting them from unnecessarily legal and financial issues is a wise and vital step. In this article, our Wills and Probate solicitors at Romain Coleman aim to share four essential steps you can take to do so.

Step 1: Get your paperwork together

Important paperwork like bank statements, insurance policies, property deeds, investments, birth and marriage certificates should be organised and put in one place.

Many of us also have several online accounts to a variety of services so it is important to list them out. It is often not recommended to include your passwords on the same piece of paper, so you may write your passwords on another piece of paper or use codes which require one to decipher.

In addition, people move around. Many people today have lived and worked in another country. It is possible that you may have pensions or insurance policies in the country which you once lived and the information should be included as well.

Step 2: Make a Will

Making a Will means your family members know exactly how you want your assets to be distributed upon your death.

Assuming that you die without a Will, everything you own will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy which are very rigid. For example, if you have remarried and died without a Will, your present spouse will inherit everything and your children from the previous relationships will not get anything.

In your Will, you will name an executor, referring to the person who will be in charge of organising your estate and distributing it according to the instructions in your Will. The executor is usually a family member or a close friend.

You can name up to four executors if you choose to. Having more than one executors is a bit like having an insurance policy – if something happens to one of the executors, the other executors can step in. However, it is unrealistic to assume all four executors will act and take charge of your estate – usually only one of them will act and the others do not participate actively.

Step 3: Tell your executors

Once you have made a Will, tell your executors where your Will is kept.

When circumstances change, it is also wise to update your Will or make a new Will. If you make a new Will, you should destroy your old Will by shredding or burning it. This way, your executors will not find the old Will by mistake and carry out wishes that are no longer relevant.

Follow the link to the article Updating or changing your Will if you are interested in this topic.

Step 4: Appoint a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

This step will see you appointing one or more people as your attorney(s) who will act on your behalf when you are too ill to do so, like when you have an accident, are hospitalised, or when you lose your mental capacity following a diagnosis of a neurodegenerative condition like the Alzheimer’s.

The main difference between a Lasting Power of Attorney and a Will is that in your Will, your wishes are carried out after you die. On the other hand, your appointed attorney (under LPA) acts to protect your interests when you are still alive.

Many people incorrectly assume that if you are married or in a civil partnership, your spouse will automatically have the power to handle your financial and health affairs in the event that you can’t do so. In reality, they do not have the legal power and they must apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order to be your deputy, meaning becoming a person who can make decisions for you in terms of your affairs. This process is long and stressful, particularly at a time when you are ill.

There are two types of LPA:

Property and financial affairs LPA

You can appoint an LPA who will make decisions when it comes to your property and finances. For instance, you may be injured and hospitalised, your attorney will then collect your pensions, manage your bank accounts, pay your bills while you are unable to do so.

Health and welfare LPA

This type of LPA can only start making decisions about your daily care when you lack the capacity to do so or under certain circumstances.

If you would like to know more about Lasting Power of Attorney, follow the link to the article How does a Lasting Power of Attorney protect me?

Other considerations

People are living longer, but not everyone is free from illnesses that affect their quality of life. Increasingly, people want to make decisions in advance and make sure they have the dignity to refuse medical care or treatments if they cannot communicate those wishes at the time. This is called a Living Will or Advance Decision.

A Living Will only includes your wishes regarding medical treatment when you are still alive. You should still go ahead to make a Will that states how you want your assets to be distributed after you die.

A Living Will is also different from a health and welfare LPA. A Living Will is a declaration of your refusal to specific medical treatments. Your health and welfare LPA usually focuses on your daily care and if you should be moved to a care home. To make sure that your LPA follows your instructions, please include guidance notes and conditions for your attorneys regarding your treatment. In other words, your Living Will and your health and welfare LPA should not contain conflicting information, otherwise whichever is created last will take priority.

To understand Living Will, check out this article Should I make a Living Will?

Romain Coleman can help you put your affairs in order

If you are thinking of creating a Will, appointing one or two Lasting Power of Attorney(s), recording your medical wishes in a Living Will, or if you simply want to verify how each of these documents works for you, give our experienced Wills and Probate solicitors a call.

Established in 1964, we have helped countless individuals protect their families by putting their affairs in order.

Our advice is don’t leave it too late, because these documents can only be made when you have the mental capacity to understand them and life is fickle.


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This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.