Do I need to write a will & why you shouldn’t keep “putting it off”
People often think about writing a will, particularly at certain times of their life, such as when buying a house, or having children, and yet it is something that is often put off until another day.
When i speak to people and ask them if they have made a will yet, I often hear people say why do I need to write a will? quickly followed up with “I’m too busy right now” or “I’ll get around to it” and the best one “I’m not planning to die just yet!”
We all hope that we have many years left to live, but the harsh reality is that none of us know exactly when our last day on Earth will be, and preparing for that is best done sooner (never too soon!) rather than later (often too late!)
Unfortunately one of our clients recently learned this the hard way…here is Dawn’s story…
About 6 months ago we had an enquiry from Dawn, her parents had asked her “Do I need to write a will”, she thought about it for a bit and then contacted us. Her Dad, Pete, is beginning to suffer from memory loss and it is suspected he is in the early stages of dementia. His mental health was beginning to deteriorate. During their consultation they explained how they were concerned about the cost of care homes as there had been several discussions about whether it might be best for Pete if he was to enter one relatively soon.
We asked if they owned their house jointly (most people do) – they did, this means they both own 100%, if one dies the survivor automatically becomes the sole owner. We suggested they could sever the tenancy of the property, meaning that both Pete and Joan (Dawn’s Mum) would own 50% each instead of each owning 100%. This gives them both the option of leaving their half of the house to someone in their will via a Trust Fund. A by-product of this would be that as neither own the whole property, should Pete need to go into a care home, they can’t be forced to sell the house to pay for his care.
Dawn and her parents decided that they would need to take some time to discuss it as a family. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, with them continuously saying they will “get around to it.”
Fast-forward to the present day when we received an email from Dawn. Pete’s condition has deteriorated (he is now attending a memory clinic), and unfortunately they will now be unable to continue with our solution as Joan has passed away unexpectedly. This means sole ownership has now passed to Pete, who is likely to be considered unable to make a will because of insufficient mental capacity to understand, retain and weigh up the required information.
Even if he is able to make a will and transfer the property into trust, as care homes have already been discussed, it’s highly likely they will face a charge of deliberate deprivation.
Now, in order for the family to retain any control over his estate, they will need to find out from Pete’s doctor if he has sufficient mental capacity to make a Lasting Power of Attorney, one for his money and one for his health.
If Pete’s Doctor feels that he has already lost the capacity to make an LPA Dawn’s only option will be to apply to the Court of Protection in order to become Pete’s Deputy. This will cost the best part of £2000 and up to a year to put in place. The ongoing annual fee is £495 and she will be required to report to or meet a court officer annually.
Because Dawn’s family kept putting it off, they have left it too late and they have not only limited their options, but there is a high probability that they will lose their family home to pay for Pete’s care and they are facing a lengthy and costly process to try to retain a little control.
This is exactly what happens if you keep putting it off! So ask yourself this question – Do I need to write a will?
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