Recently I embarked on a thorough clean and tidy of our kitchen cupboards. I discovered some items that should have been consumed long ago. It can be easy to overlook these items, by which point they are of no use to us anymore.
The same can be said for your Will or Power of Attorney – they can have a limited ‘shelf life’. So it is important to dust off, review and update these documents occasionally to make sure that, when the time comes, they carry out your wishes as intended.
Caring for new arrivals
It is especially important for parents to ensure that they each have a valid Will in place. This should specify who they would wish to care for their child should they die before the child reaches the age of 18. It should also specify who will look after the child’s inheritance so that the child’s educational and other needs are taken care of. Guidance must also be given on the appropriate age at which the child will become entitled to receive their inheritance and assume full control of the funds. This will vary depending upon, for example, the size of the estate and the individual circumstances and needs of the child.
Don’t forget the grandchildren
It is not just parents who should revisit or draw up a Will. Grandparents should also check what provision (if any) has been made in existing Wills for current or future grandchildren. Does the Will expressly state that the share of their estate which was intended for a child who has predeceased them should pass instead to that child’s own child or children? And at what age should their grandchildren inherit?
Powers of Attorney and capacity
A Will ensures your wishes are carried out after your death. A Power of Attorney safeguards against the possibility of losing control of your affairs because you have lost mental capacity during your lifetime. It is easy to assume that loss of capacity is something that typically affects us in later life, but capacity can be lost at any age due to an accident or an illness. Anyone aged 18 or over can make a Lasting Power of Attorney provided they have the requisite mental capacity to do so. There are two types: one for property and finances, and the other for health and welfare-based decisions. The same person can be appointed under both types of Lasting Power of Attorney but need not be.
It is of course prudent to ensure that elderly relatives have a valid Lasting Power of Attorney to cover any future loss of capacity, particularly those who rely upon others for day to day help with their affairs, or who are approaching the stage when the need for more help is foreseeable.
Can an out of date Power of Attorney create more issues than it solves?
Absolutely. For instance, are the individuals who you appointed to act as your Attorneys still the individuals who you would want to take responsibility for your finances or your health? Are they still able to do this, or have they lost capacity themselves, or died? If so, a replacement Lasting Power of Attorney will need to be drawn up.