New Year Resolutions – What lies ahead…


With the end of another festive season it’s time to look forward into 2012. Whilst we think about what the forthcoming year might hold it is also a good time to review and put in place legal arrangements to cater for all those expected or unexpected events which could occur in the future.

The most obvious piece of forward planning is making a Will. We all recognise that death is inescapable but many of us put off writing a Will either because we think that there’s plenty of time for that sort of thing or that a Will is not necessary.

Life Changing Event – Get your legal affairs in order nowUnfortunately untimely and tragic events do happen. It’s far better to have arrangements in place than to leave relatives with complex legal and financial headaches at an immensely emotional time.

One salutary tale is of Brian, a postman aged 37 who was hit by a bus when crossing the road. Brian survived, but suffered massive head injuries. It’s now a year on from the accident and Brian is being looked after in a rehabilitation unit, he has some speech but will never be able to look after himself or make decisions for himself. Whilst Brian may receive substantial compensation he can't turn back the clock.

Brian’s mother has put her own life on hold to look after Brian and to deal with all the legal and financial ramifications following his accident. However, Brian never made a Will and if he dies it will be his two young children who inherit the compensation money and it will be his divorced wife who takes charge. This is a prospect which worries his mother and which Brian himself never would have wanted.

So, it’s never too soon to make a Will so you make sure that what you would like to happen actually does.

A Will provides certainty and ensures a smooth legal process upon death but it is also worthwhile considering what would happen in the event of losing mental capacity. Brian could not have predicted his accident or that he would need someone to make decisions on his behalf. His mother has gone through a lengthy and costly legal application to become Brian’s deputy so she can now make financial decisions for him. But, when it comes to Brian’s medical treatment and continuing care he will always be in the hands of his doctors and social workers. His mother’s opinion is asked for and she is kept informed but she will never have the final say. This is a position which naturally troubles her.

As we get older it becomes easier to predict that there may come a time when we lose mental capacity. This might be due to a stroke, dementia or any other illness. It is important, particularly from retirement age onwards, to plan ahead by setting up Lasting Powers of Attorney. These documents appoint up to four people to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. There is one Lasting Power of Attorney for financial decisions and a separate Lasting Power of Attorney document for health and welfare decisions.

We invite you to take action in 2012 to make sure that all your legal arrangements are in place for any of life’s unexpected twists and turns and so that nothing is left to chance.

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