Reduce the stress of big decisions with power of attorney

4 minute read

Legal advice couple 16.9

Big decisions in later life, such as estate planning and making a Will, can seem daunting, but there's plenty of legal help available. Here are four tips.

Writing a Will, planning who would look after your affairs if you became very ill. These are difficult decisions to make. We look at how you can make the right choices through professional legal advice, such as arranging a Lasting Power of Attorney, to support you when you need it most.


Four tips for making good legacy planning decisions

1. Don’t put it off

It is estimated that more than half of UK adults, many of them homeowners, don’t yet have a Will. Many of us prefer to delay the difficult decisions. But it helps to start thinking about these issues at your leisure, before some kind of crisis forces your hand.


2. Take your time

Forward planning can give you peace of mind. Unfortunately, many people make decisions about their future while under pressure. Perhaps that’s down to poor health, or circumstances changing suddenly such as having a fall or going into hospital. Equally, it could be because you just want it out of the way.

Very big decisions, such as choosing a care home or planning your legacy, should be considered carefully, so it’s important to give yourself the time to go over the options. Decisions made at times of stress tend to be regretted.


3. Get legal advice when it’s needed

Some decisions, such as making a Will, need legal expertise. Do-it-yourself Wills can provide a lower-cost option that suits some people, but in most cases a lawyer is vital to make sure a Will is watertight, clear and covers everything you need it to. Wills need careful checking to make sure your wishes are properly understood and documented. They should also be reviewed over time so they’re up to date and reflect any change in circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, or new children in the family.


4. Plan for all eventualities

A time can come in anyone’s life when they lose the physical ability or mental capacity to look after themselves. If you or a loved one is facing this situation, it is advisable to appoint a Power of Attorney or Lasting Power of Attorney.


What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney arrangement is often put in place to make things easier for your family should you not have the mental capacity to make complicated financial or medical decisions. The person you appoint as your attorney will be informed what your wishes are and be in a position to respect and act upon them. However, it is important that they agree to this appointment in advance.

You may decide to have more than one LPA. For example, you may entrust one family member or friend to look after your finances but want another to help with decisions about your health and wellbeing. The attorney must consult you on any decisions as long as you have the capacity. That way, the two of you work together to get the best outcome.


What is a Power of Attorney?

When you grant someone Power of Attorney, you must still have the mental capacity to give them the right to manage your affairs, should you lose the ability to do so (i.e. while you are in hospital).

These could be decisions about:

●      how to manage your finances

●      your health and welfare

●      the type of medical care and treatment you receive

●      what happens if you have to move into a care home


You can allocate Power of Attorney to your solicitor

It is not always easy to know who to appoint as an attorney. Sometimes loved ones may disagree with your wishes or intentions, for example. You may also feel that they simply have too many other responsibilities to take on an extra burden. Having your solicitor act as an attorney for property or financial issues can help sidestep any family tensions.


Where to find legal help

There are lots of different options for obtaining legal support, including Age Co’s Legal Services, which are provided by Irwin Mitchell LLP. You can find out more about Age Co legal service here. Alternatively, you can contact Citizens Advice for information, or read our article on how to find a good lawyer.