It is estimated only around a third of the adult population have a Will – and even less have made a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to deal with important lifetime decisions, say Buckles Solicitors LLP.
Despite the well-publicised dangers of not having a Will, 70 per cent of people do not have one – effectively leaving the law to decide who will inherit and administer their estate and look after any (minor) children.
Equally as important is putting a legally binding LPA in place, which means appointing someone trustworthy (the Attorney) to deal with important decisions about their health and finances during their lifetime.
Stephen Duffy, head of private client and partner at Buckles in Peterborough, said: “Many people assume that their spouse, civil partner or close relatives will be able to deal with their finances and make medical and care decisions for them in the event of incapacity just by virtue of being "next of kin" but this is simply not the case.
“This means that control over property and finances and decisions relating to medical treatment and care, could be left in the hands of third parties, such as social workers, doctors or the Court of Protection, in the event of accident, illness or dementia.
“An LPA will therefore ensure that someone, chosen by you, can deal with your property and financial affairs – or even make health and welfare decisions on your behalf – in the event that it were ever necessary or beneficial for them to do so.
“Even those who have an LPA in place however may still be at risk if they have not taken expert legal advice in preparing the document, or perhaps have not chosen their Attorney carefully. I would therefore encourage clients to review their documents to ensure their LPAs meet their wishes.”
The warning follows a recent legal case of a pensioner in Peterborough, where a vulnerable person with dementia in her 80s was duped out of tens of thousands of pound by her neighbours, whom it is claimed helped themselves to a total of £150,000.
The pensioner concerned had given her neighbour sole power of attorney over her finances when she was still alive.
Stephen added: “We cannot stress enough the importance of having a Will and LPA created by a solicitor. When people are fit and healthy they often don’t want to think about writing a Will or making an LPA and what will happen on death or incapacity.
“However, making a Will and LPA is the perfect opportunity to get something in place for when it is needed. It will give peace of mind to you and your loved ones.
“We believe that the majority of people would make a Will and LPA without hesitation if they knew the potential legal difficulties and additional heartache it could cause to loved ones without one in place.”
The Private Client department of Buckles advises on and prepares LPAs, and also offers a free legal documents review service to help ensure that any LPAs that are in place are valid and practical.