Making Wills and Powers of Attorney tend to languish on the to-do list somewhere below booking a root canal treatment and completing one’s tax return (shudder). That said, many of us have more time than usual on our hands at the moment, so now could be a great time to attend to some ‘life admin’ in this area.
Set out below are four key suggestions about how to be well-prepared for any eventuality:
As we all know, it is very important for your family that you have in place an up-to-date, valid Will which reflects your current wishes. Dust off your existing Will if you have one, and double check whether it is still suitable, or whether you would like to update it. You might want to consider bringing your adult children on board as executors, or perhaps adding a legacy to leave something to your grandchildren. You could update your list of gifts of treasured personal possessions to your loved ones, or include some special, meaningful funeral wishes such as which music you would like. If you are only making relatively minor changes to your Will, these can be done by way of a short codicil, or it may be that a complete rewrite of your Will is in order.
It is well worth reviewing your Will regularly every 3 to 5 years, as family circumstances change over time. Life events such as marriage, having children or grandchildren, divorce, meeting a new life partner, remarriage or a death in the family will all have an impact on your Will, and may mean that it needs to be updated.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
Alongside your Will, it would also be a good idea to make Lasting Powers of Attorney, in which you appoint trusted people of your choice to act on your behalf if you ever became unable to manage your own affairs during your lifetime. The classic use of powers of attorney is for dementia sufferers, but they are also applicable to people in all sorts of other situations.
Making powers of attorney is an eminently practical step you can take that puts you in control of choosing who would be making decisions for you, if you ever lost capacity ie if you were ever ill, in hospital or had been in an accident. A financial power of attorney can also be used if you are abroad for a long period (hello, winter sun!). People usually appoint their spouse, adult children or other family members, or sometimes a close friend, as their attorneys.
Lasting powers of attorney come in two types. One is for property and financial affairs. This enables your attorneys to manage your finances for you, exactly as you would yourself. For example to pay bills, use your bank account, deal with your investments and even to buy or sell a home for you.
The other is for health and welfare. This allows your attorneys to make decisions about matters such as giving or refusing consent to medical treatment, including life-sustaining treatment, staying in your own home with support from social services, moving into residential care, choosing a good care home and even your diet, dress or daily routine.
Ideally, each person should have both types of deed in place, because they play completely different roles.
Spreadsheet of essential information
Another extremely useful document to have tucked away somewhere safe-but-easy-to-find is a spreadsheet listing your assets, with approximate values, as well as information about any debts such as a mortgage, and any other relevant information. You could even consider giving a copy of your spreadsheet to your attorneys and executors.
Your spreadsheet should include details of where your Will is stored, and information about any substantial lifetime gifts you have made. Your lifetime gifts are relevant for inheritance tax purposes, and their details can be tricky to establish retrospectively.
This week the law has changed so that, from 20 May, the NHS will operate an ‘opt out’ rather than an ‘opt in’ system. So, if you wish to opt out you should register your wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Having in place an up-to-date Will, powers of attorney and a spreadsheet of essential information, as well as recording your wishes in relation to organ donation, will give you peace of mind that you have everything organised. You will then be able to tuck away the documents safely and go on with life, secure in the knowledge that you and your family are well-prepared for any eventuality.
Thanks to Rebecca D’Arcy of Chiltern Wills who wrote this informative article.