GUEST BLOG: Crisis Planning through the Covid 19 Pandemic: Are your Affairs in Order?
We asked Eloise Keyte, Private Client Specialist – Consultant, of Sentry Legals to put some words together regarding how people are reacting to their personal legal affairs in light of the COVID outbreak and what can be done to put further protections in place.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, we have seen an increase in existing clients wishing to finalise their matters as quickly as possible, and also an increase in new clients wishing to draw up Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney. Sadly, more and more people are facing their mortality and the reality of serious illness or death is at the forefront of people’s minds.
When we meet clients who do not have existing Wills and we ask why they are putting one in place now, the usual answer is “it’s one of those things we have just been meaning to do but have not got around to until now” or “we didn’t think we really needed one until now”. It is all too easy to brush difficult conversations and thoughts aside and stick our head in the sand and just tell ourselves “I will wait until the time is right to do that” – but what if that time does not come?
I sincerely hope that every person reading this lives a long and healthy life but sadly, statistics tell us that this is not the case with many people. We do not have control over when we depart this world or control over the possibility of becoming mentally incapacitated. Many people associate this with old age but every 90 seconds, someone in the United Kingdom is admitted to hospital due to brain injury; and more than 800,000 people have dementia.
There has obviously been a shift in how we meet clients for the time being, with all appointments being held over the telephone or video calling whether by Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp or Facetime. This works well for the most part but we would like to encourage our younger readers to help elderly relatives with this technology not only for important instructions such as their Wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney but also to allow them to stay in touch with friends and family.
The requirement to socially distance oneself may also present challenges when it comes to signing documents, especially in the presence of witnesses. We have created a system where we can offer a document witnessing service within 5 miles of Eastbourne and for the remainder of our clients we have drawn up detailed guidance as to how you can have your documents witnessed at a distance whilst still complying with the Wills Act 1837 requirements.
We are also seeing a surge in new and existing clients realising the importance of drawing up Lasting Powers of Attorney (“LPAs”). LPAs are legal documents which allow you to appoint one person or a number of other people to step in and act for you if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself; or simply for convenience. These documents must be drawn up while you are able to do so and if you “wait and see” you may become physically or mentally unwell and unable to instruct the preparation of the documents.
Lasting Powers of Attorney are not a quick process (unlike having a Will drawn up) so it is important to consider taking action now. There are some delays at the Office of the Public Guardian in having the documents registered as understandably, they are seeing a drop in staff attendance. The documents are important for anyone at any age, especially if you are the sole director and shareholder of a business (or there are a small number of you) or if you have assets which your spouse, partner or other dependants would need access to if anything happened to you.
LPAs are not just for people with mental incapacity, either – they can be drawn up to be used for convenience (with your permission) so if you are unwell or in complete isolation you can authorise others to step in and act for you. If you have a business which would need to continue or you are the higher earner in your household, this is an important crisis planning tool. Most people wrongly assume that if they have a joint account with someone, they can just keep accessing funds in the account but in reality, if one party loses mental capacity, the account can be frozen to protect their interests.
A temporary measure if you require assistance for your own convenience is to draw up a General Power of Attorney, which is something else we can assist with.
If you do not take action and you become unwell (whether physically or mentally) or you simply need assistance because you are unable to do your everyday banking yourself or become unable to deal with the sale of a property, for example, then your family members or friends will not be able to lawfully make decisions or take action on your behalf and the alternative is a Court application to the Court of Protection to become your “Deputy” which is an expensive and lengthy process and takes the decision out of your hands.
We shall be continuing with all of our work in relation to existing and new Wills, lasting powers of attorney and estate administration matters (probate) and we can be reached by telephone and email as normal.”
If you would like to speak to Eloise about anything highlighted in this blog you can call us on 03442 643 575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The blog postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of Sentry Advice Limited. All comments are made in good faith, and neither Sentry Advice Limited nor the author will accept liability for them. No advice is given in any posting. Please contact your adviser for more information or advice.