Later Life  

Are wills and LPAs about to enter the digital age?

He says: “I always use Michael Schumacher’s skiing accident as an analogy. Although they think it’s their parents and grandparents that need a power of attorney, it shows it would be useful for someone to look after their own financial affairs in such a situation.”

Willpower

Ms Griffin describes wills and LPA arrangements as “the cornerstone of any financial planning”. But in contrast to the growing interest in LPAs, research carried out by Unbiased last year shows that 31m people, or 60 per cent of UK adults, had not made a will, suggesting this sentiment is yet to feed through to the wider public.

This figure correlates with the experience of Mr Gallacher, who emphasises that dying without a will has wider implications on the surviving family unit.

He says: “The first thing that happens on death is that everyone falls out, and if you’ve got a non-traditional family with stepchildren, the situation is worsened. We’ve seen examples where close family members have taken advantage of each other if the will hasn’t been in place or it isn’t right.”

For those failing to make a will before death, the preferred distribution of assets may not be possible. In this scenario, the rules of intestacy apply, as outlined in Box 2. Importantly, only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under these rules, and the deceased must be married or in a civil partnership at the time of death.

 

Mr Gallacher notes that clients are often shocked by this, and adds that many also voice concerns about children receiving assets at a less-than-preferable age. 

“If [the children] are younger, assets are held in a statutory trust until they’re 18 and then they get the money, which generally is not going to go down well,” he says.

Although consumers will seek out advisers, solicitors and accountants for different needs, there is still a degree of overlap. On an individual level, complexities can be mitigated through prudent tax planning – something that should involve both advisers and solicitors, says Kelly Greig, private client partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell.

Great responsibility

LPAs also carry obvious risks. Some worry a power of attorney can have a devastating effect on family relationships. In August, Denzil Lush, a former Court of Protection judge who has overseen more than 6,000 cases, said that the public must be alerted to the lack of safeguards in the current system. He warned a lack of transparency “causes suspicions and concerns that tend to rise in a crescendo and eventually explode”.

Ms Greig currently sits on the Court of Protection panel, focusing on instances where attorneys have been removed for wrongdoing. She says: “Because the attorneys are often the beneficiary, they think that what they’re doing is not wrong. There are varying degrees: some are point plank wrong – it’s theft really – but some are well intentioned.”