We are so lucky to have a wealth of experience across our Board of Trustees. Their knowledge helps our scheme continue to move forward, grow and develop – which in turn ensures that we are here for local families when they need us most.
One of our newest trustees, Julie, who has a background in finance, property and project management, shares why it is important to safeguard your family’s future with a will and lasting power of attorney, along with instructions on how to do just that.
Why is having a will and lasting power of attorney [LPA] important?
Have you made a will and LPA for property and financial affairs? Why is it so important to make these documents?
As someone who has worked in the will and probate business for many years, I believe that whatever your age it is important to have both a will and a lasting power of attorney in place. If you have children who are under 18 and have family responsibilities, these documents become even more vital to help protect your family.
In your will you can stipulate exactly who you would like to have guardianship of your children should you pass away. This could help a Judge decide who would look after your children if anything were to happen to you. Without a will detailing your wishes to help a judge decide, your children could end up being looked after by someone you wouldn’t have wanted to be involved in their upbringing.
Having a trust can protect your property
Trusts can be a vital way of protecting your property after your death. These do not have to be complicated, and a simple trust that you can add into your will ensures that your children’s inheritance is protected. For example, you may be concerned that if your partner were to re-marry after your death, your children could lose out on what you wanted them to inherit. You can include a Trust in your will to protect your share of your property.
The two types of lasting powers of attorney
A lasting power of attorney for property and finance is important should you become mentally incapacitated following events such as an accident or a stroke. By appointing attorneys when you are well, it means that they could step in and act on your behalf straight away to deal with all financial and property matters.
For a parent, this would make it much easier for your children to be cared for financially. If you suddenly became unwell, all your accounts (including joint ones) could be frozen; can you imagine how difficult that would make life for your loved ones? If you have a lasting power of attorney in place, they can act on your behalf so it would be one less thing for them to worry about.
You can also make another type of lasting power of attorney that provides for health and welfare. This gives the person you appoint as your attorney the right to speak to doctors and health professionals on your behalf should you be too unwell to do so.
How do I make a will?
You do not have to pay a solicitor to make your will. You can get a simple will document at any stationery shop or online. Be careful to follow all instructions and get two completely independent people to witness the signing of the will. Asking someone who will benefit from your will to sign it will make it invalid.
Another option, if you don’t feel confident in doing the will yourself, is to contact a professional will writer. Ensure they are a member of The Society of Will Writers or a similar professional body. This will mean they are fully trained and up to date with any changes in the laws. Many solicitors and will writers also take part in ‘Free Wills Month’ which takes place twice a year in March and October, however, you do have to be over 55 years old to take advantage of this service. A number of companies offer free or reduced fees at other times but do be mindful of scams.
Lasting powers of attorney can also be done directly with the Office of the Public Guardian, either online or to print out and send in. However, they are quite complex forms, so if you are not confident with form filling, I would suggest getting some help with these. The online instructions are very detailed, but it is easy to make a mistake.
To register each of the lasting powers of attorney, you will need to pay £82 to The Office of the Public Guardian, but that fee is reduced or waived if you are receiving certain benefits or have an income of less than £12,000 per year.
Overall, for peace of mind and should anything happen to you, it does make life easier for your loved ones if you make sure you have a will and lasting powers of attorney in place.