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Financial Planning is not just about managing investments. It’s a Financial Planner’s role to keep you in touch with many other aspects of your life that might have a bearing on the efficient running of your finances, the potential advantages you might miss and the traps that can await the unwary or ill-prepared.
A conversation over this Christmas holiday reminded me of one potential horror that can easily be avoided. One which many people still risk, despite the fact that it’s a risk they don’t need to take.
Imagine for a moment that your spouse or partner has an accident, or perhaps a stroke, that affects them so badly that they are unable to make any decisions for themselves. Your life changes immediately. You have to worry about nursing care, finances, mobility, family matters and all those things – without the help of the person who normally shared those responsibilities with you.
You decide you must sell your home to move somewhere more suitable. After a while the agent finds a buyer who is able to complete straight away. In fact one of the conditions is that they want to complete the purchase in a month, which suits you really well because you’ve found somewhere near your family which will be ideal for your new circumstances.
Then comes the big shock. You can’t sell your house because it is owned by both you and your spouse. You need your spouse’s permission and signature to sell it and your spouse is in no condition to provide that. YOU ARE COMPLETELY STUCK.
In terms of both finance and welfare, as your spouse has become unwell and can’t make decisions for themselves, it will be necessary for someone (a ‘Deputy’) to be appointed by the Court of Protection to make decisions for them. This can be an arduous process and the Deputy may not be a person you would have chosen – it may even be someone you do not know. The Deputy’s job will be similar to that of an Attorney appointed by you but the cost to you will be considerably higher and the Deputy may not be best placed to know, and therefore reflect in what he or she does, the decisions your spouse might have made had they retained capacity.
This situation could take months to resolve. So in addition to the enormous burden you now have of ensuring your loved one is cared for as best as you can manage, you now have the additional nightmare of losing the potential sale of your house. You don’t even know when it might be possible to arrange this. And all the time the bills are mounting and the frustration is increasing.
Fortunately, there is a way to ensure that this horrific situation can be avoided. The way this is done is to ensure that you have completed and registered a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This document appoints an attorney, of your choice, who can take over your affairs if the need arises. It’s a somewhat bureaucratic process, but it’s important that you should get it done and then keep it with your Will. Your solicitor may have already done this, but if you can’t remember, now is the time to check with them and get it done.
If you don’t have a Will either, or would like an introduction to one of the solicitors we work with to review your existing Will and arrange an LPA for you, please get in touch with us.