According to Unbiased, almost six out of 10 adults in the UK haven’t made a will. This carries significant risk, especially given how unpredictable life can be. Wills and lasting power of attorney cover decisions in the future, including how property and financial affairs are handled, either in the event of death or when you lose mental capacity. It’s always best to be prepared, and this legal document can protect you, your family members, and whatever’s in your bank account.
This blog explores how wills and lasting power of attorney work and the benefits they offer. Read on to find out more about these important legal documents and the protection they provide.
Understanding Wills and Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
A will is a legal document that sets out your wishes after death. It typically includes information about how your property and financial affairs will be handled and the care of any minor children. You can prepare a valid will yourself, but you should have the document witnessed to decrease the likelihood of successful challenges later.
If you die without a will, also known as intestate, it can cause complications. In England and Wales, your property and money will be shared according to a legal default rather than your expressed wishes. This can become complicated depending on your marital and family status and the property you possess, so it’s always best to have a will in place.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
Lasting power of attorney is typically split into Property and Financial Affairs, Lasting Power of Attorney and Health and Welfare LPA. You can choose to have one or both in place, with most people taking out both simultaneously for maximum protection should mental capacity deteriorate in the future.
A Health and Welfare LPA covers health and care decisions, including:
- Your Medical Care
- Where You Live
- Your Daily Routine
- Who You Have Contact With
- Whether You Have Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment
A Property and Financial Affairs LPA covers:
- Buying and Selling Property
- Paying Your Bills
- Collecting Your Pension and Benefits
- Managing Your Bank Accounts
The Importance of Wills
A will is a foundational document that allows you to set out your affairs concerning how assets will be distributed. It provides a clear roadmap for allocating everything from financial assets and real estate to personal belongings.
One of the most critical aspects of a will, especially for parents or guardians of minor children, is the ability to appoint a guardian in the event of their untimely demise. This ensures that children are cared for by someone you trust and have chosen, rather than being left to the uncertainty of court-appointed guardianships. Without such specifications in a will, the state could decide the future care of your children, potentially in a manner that might not align with your parental wishes or values.
Minimising Family Disputes
A well-drafted will with clear instructions is a powerful tool in preventing disputes among family members after your passing. By clearly outlining your wishes, you can help avoid misunderstandings and conflicts that often arise when heirs are left to interpret or guess the deceased’s intentions.
The Role of Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for financial affairs is an essential tool that allows you to appoint someone you trust to manage financial decisions if you lack or have lost mental capacity. This can include paying bills, managing bank accounts, and making investment decisions. Without an LPA, your loved ones might face significant hurdles, including potential legal battles, to gain the authority to manage your finances. This can lead to unpaid bills, financial loss, and unnecessary stress during a challenging time.
Mental Capacity and Healthcare Decisions
Similarly, an LPA for health and welfare empowers a trusted individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to do so. This can cover a range of decisions, from routine medical care to life-sustaining treatment preferences. Having an LPA ensures that your healthcare wishes are known and can be acted upon, including choosing to refuse life-sustaining treatment providing peace of mind to you and your family.
This health and welfare lasting power of attorney works alongside the Mental Capacity Act to ensure a legal framework is in place for acting and making decisions for adults who cannot make particular decisions for themselves.
Wills and LPA Requirements and Processes
Creating a Will
There are specific requirements when you create a will, and these are in place to protect your welfare. The document is legally binding, so it’s essential to do everything correctly. For a will to be legally valid, you must:
Be 18 or over.
Make it voluntarily
Be of sound mind.
Make it in writing.
Sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18
Have it signed by your two witnesses in your presence?
You and your witnesses must sign the same document. When you sign the document, both witnesses must have a clear view of you and the act of signing. Similarly, when your witnesses sign, you must be able to see the same.
Your witnesses do not need to sign it at the same time as each other.
Setting Up an LPA
For a lasting power of attorney, the rules are similar. You must:
- Be 18 or over.
- Have the mental capacity to make your own decisions
To make a lasting power of attorney, you choose your attorney, fill in the forms to make them your appointed attorney, and then register your LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian. This can take up to 20 weeks and has a registration fee of £82. It can also be cancelled if you no longer need it.
Regularly Update Your Legal Document
Remember to always keep your documents up to date. You should review your will every five years and after any significant change in your life, for example:
- Getting separated or divorced
- Getting married (this cancels all previous wills)
- Having a child
- Moving house
- If the executor named in the will dies
Consult with Professionals
To safeguard your future and cement legal authority, speak to a professional today. At Bower Home Finance, we’re the experts regarding wills and lasting powers of attorney. We have your best interest and vast experience in dealing with such matters. No matter your circumstances, we take care of everything and get documents written, signed, and approved quickly.