As we go through life, getting into (and out of) relationships, having children, getting or changing jobs, buying or first home, and all the things you do on a daily basis, it is perfectly understandable that doing some serious forward planning might take a back seat.
By serious forward planning, we are, of course, referring not only to setting out what should happen to your property once you are no longer here but also what you can do to make sure that decisions you would make are made by someone you trust if you are no longer able to do that yourself.
Perhaps this is a poignant moment to think about these things, given the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II. We are sure, like her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, she will have made a Will and that this will be acted upon after the formal proceedings have passed.
Morbid though it may seem, we urge all our clients to consider making a Will and to draw up a Power of Attorney.
Why is it important to make a Will?
Making a Will is the only way you can ensure your estate passes to your loved ones in the way you would wish. If you decide to rely on the Law of Succession, your loved ones might discover they have no entitlement – or need to take steps to gain some sort of entitlement. This is especially true if you are cohabiting with a partner but are not married to or in a civil partnership with them.
When you make a Will, you decide who you should appoint to look after the administration of your affairs after your death. You decide who should receive what from your estate.
If you have young children, you can appoint a guardian to look after them if you and their other parent both pass away.
It is especially important to make your Will if you are in a “modern” family. By that we mean a family where there are children from different relationships. This means, for instance, if you leave your entire estate to your current spouse or partner, when they die, any children you have from an earlier relationship have no entitlement to the estate of your surviving spouse or partner.
In Scotland, there is the principle of Legal Rights. That means it is very difficult to disinherit your children. This can cause considerable tension if this is not properly addressed.
Just as life is not straight forward, usually, death is not either. That is why it is important to make a Will!
Finally, if you have already made a Will, if your circumstances have changes, please make sure you update it.
Why is it important to draw up a Power of Attorney?
If having a Will is important to look after your affairs after you have passed away, a Power of Attorney means your affairs can be looked after whilst you are alive.
Drawing up a Power of Attorney is a sensible, practical course of action. It allows you to appoint someone to make the types of decisions you would make if you are no longer able to make them. None of us knows what is round the corner. Anyone can sustain an injury or have an accident or suffer from an illness that prevents them from looking after their own affairs. Even if this is just for a short period of time, it makes sense to have someone able to step in and make those important decisions if you are unable to make them for yourself.
Many people believe that a Power of Attorney is something “older” people draw up. That is simply not the case. More and more people understand and appreciate the importance of drawing up a Power of Attorney as a sort of “insurance policy” against an unfortunate future event. And as with every insurance policy, you always hope you never have to rely on it!
You should also know that when you draw up a Power of Attorney, you continue to look after your own affairs. If you do not need to rely on it, then you do not have to. However, should you sustain an injury, have an accident or suffer an illness that prevents you from looking after your own affairs, your attorney will be able to immediately step in and deal with your affairs on your behalf.
These two documents are probably two of the most important documents you will ever have.
If you would like to discuss making (or updating) a Will and drawing up a Power of Attorney, please get in touch with us.