New Year’s Resolutions: Putting Your Affairs in Order

New Year: Getting your affairs in order

2019 is well and truly upon us! The Christmas decorations are down, you’ve quite possibly signed up for a gym, and you’re back in the office again. It’s this time of year when we take a look at our lives and consider ways to improve them and thus make some New Year’s Resolutions and attempt to stick to them.

Something that may not immediately spring to mind when making these lists, is writing a Will and putting Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA’s) in place. However, these are perhaps two of the most important and responsible things you could do this year to plan for your future.

We take a look at what you need to know when making a Will and a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Making a Will

Provided that you are 18 years or older, it is a good idea to have a will regardless of your age.

It is important to have your will drafted by a professional, qualified solicitor. There are lots of different types of wills, and you should discuss the different options with your solicitor who will be able to tailor your will to your own specific circumstances and requirements.

For example, if you are married, in civil partnership or co-habiting, and you both have very similar wishes, you could make mirror wills. These are wills that are very similar or identical in content. Mirror Wills allow each partner to leave their whole estate to the surviving spouse/civil partner/co-habitee.  If you are unmarried and co-habiting, mirror wills are a good way to protect your partner and ensure that your estate or part of your estate will pass directly to him or her, which will not automatically be the case if you are not married.  For example, if only one partner owns the house in you both live, and subsequently passes away, the house will not automatically pass to the surviving partner, who could potentially be left homeless and embroiled in a dispute with other family members.

Even If you are married but do not already have wills in place, it is not always the case that everything will pass to the surviving spouse/civil partner, so it is important that you have a will in place, especially if you live together in the same property.

If you have any pets, you can also include directions in your will as to their future care after your death.  Further information on how you can provide for your pets in your will can be found here.

As we are living in a new digital age, and more and more people are using the internet for every aspect of their lives, from online banking and dating, to ordering food deliveries and sharing photos, there is a surprising amount of personal information about you held online.  It is therefore important to consider what amounts to a ‘digital asset’ when giving instructions for your will and ensuring that when the time comes, your Executors can access any information, such as passwords which may be required. Further information about digital assets can be found here.

More information on creating a will can be found here.

Making a Lasting Power of Attorney

There are two different types of Lasting Power of Attorney, one for Property and Financial Affairs, and one for Health and Welfare.  

The government website defines an LPA as: “A legal document that lets you (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. This gives you more control over what happens to you if you have an accident or an illness and can’t make your own decisions (you ‘lack mental capacity’).”

It is important to have both types of LPA in place so that if or when the time comes in your life where you lack mental capacity to make those types of decisions for yourself, your Attorneys can step in immediately and without facing any obstacles, such as waiting for the documents to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, which can take several weeks.

LPA’s are not just for the elderly; as younger people are not immune to becoming mentally incapacitated as a result of a life changing accident or unexpected illness, which is why it is important that arrangements are put in place when you are mentally capable.. Once a person has lost mental capacity, it is usually too late to make an LPA and an application would have to be made to the Court of Protection instead, which can be a costly and time consuming exercise, adding unwanted stress and worry for your family. The Court of Protection may decide to appoint an independent person instead, such as a professional, to make decisions on your behalf, someone you have never met, who may charge for their services, in the event of any family dispute, all of which could be avoided by having LPA’s in place.

More information on creating a Lasting Power of Attorney can be found here.

How can I find out more information?

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, please get in touch with one of our legal specialised on 0800 614 722.