Wills and powers of attorney

Wills and powers of attorney

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When couples decide to cohabit it is sensible for both parties to make new wills to reflect their new circumstances. Additionally, if one of the parties is elderly or has a serious health condition it may be appropriate to create a power of attorney to enable your cohabitee to act on your behalf. This could include withdrawing money from an account to pay a bill or selling an asset. It might also include taking care of matters related to your personal welfare, such as taking care of your social and healthcare needs.

Making a Will

Making a Will is important for everyone but even more so for unmarried couples. Unmarried couples should consider making a Will in favour of their partner. If they don't, their estate will pass to their immediate family or in some cases to the Government, under the intestacy rules and not to their partner. This might leave the surviving partner with serious financial problems.

An unmarried partner will also not be entitled to administer their deceased partner's estate as they were not legally related. This right must be specifically provided for in the Will.

A Will is also important for appointing a guardian for any children you may have, at the time of your death, who are under the age of 18 (or 16 in Scotland).

Powers of attorney

At any stage in life people can become unable to manage their own affairs for a variety of reasons. They may be incapacitated by an accident, ill-health or the onset of mental illness. This makes the paying of bills, the managing of financial decisions and other important everyday routines difficult and in some cases impossible. It is therefore important to consider appointing an attorney to act under a power of attorney before this happens.

A power of attorney can give your partner the legal right to manage your affairs, if you should become unable to manage them yourself or to communicate your wishes.

Why is a power of attorney useful?

A power of attorney can be used to give another person the right to manage either or both your financial affairs and your personal welfare, in the event that you should become unable to manage it yourself. A power of attorney can also be used to give another person the right to deal with your property for a limited period of time.

It is worth planning ahead, because once you become unable to manage you affairs due to mental incapacity, you will no longer be able to grant a valid power of attorney. It therefore makes both practical and financial sense to consider appointing an attorney under a power of attorney before that day arrives.

What power of attorney do I need?

There are different types of power of attorney available. The choice of power of attorney will depend on where you want the power of attorney to be valid and for what purposes you want to use it.