Ain’t nothing quite like death to make you think about making sure all your affairs in order.
In some respects its quite simple – I am married (in a civil partnership if you prefer) therefore my wife is my next-of-kin and inheirits everything except what the taxman takes. This works fine in reverse her parents are already provided for within her insurance policy although I do worry a little about potential medical issues.. on which more below.
I, however, feel that my affairs should be a little more complicated. Although I feel no particular concern over the welfare of my parents (unless something very peculiar happens there should be no problem dealing with elderly care and/or funeral expenses from their own estates should the need arise) I still feel a measure of responsibility for my sister. Having acted as her guardian even before I was legally allowed to I feel that I should leave something for her or her children should she have any. Fortunately the same level of responsibility doesn’t fill me with regard to my step-siblings though should they choose to breed I would also choose to leave something to their children. In general I trust W to make sensible gifts to them (and friends etc) as required but also don’t want to leave her that burden of choice and potential disagreement at a difficult time.
However the more complex issue is B, under the law of the land he has no right to any of my estate unless I specify it even if W is already dead. It is not that he is financially dependent on me (quite the opposite) but simply that I feel his relationship to me should be acknowledged and without a will I am dependent on either W or my parents/sister to know and act upon my wishes. I would prefer he distributed my estate and gave gifts to family and friends than my siblings in the event that W predeceases me or is incapable for some reason. Also at the moment W & B are on good terms, but how do I know that would continue if I was ill or not there to tie them together? I am left with the difficult balancing act of offering B legitimacy within my life without denigrating the privileged status of W as my wife – I feel my will needs careful wording.
I am also prepared to complicate things a little further. Although there is no history (that I know of) in my family of dementia or stroke (unlike W’s family I might add) a certain paranoia comes over me that at some point I may be incapable of making my own financial or medical decisions. Under the law W is given a moderate amount of leeway to make medical recommendations and fortunately I am comfortable that she would make the decisions I would be happy with but the process is complex medium-long term and of course makes no allowance for B. This leads me to want to make a decision about registering Lasting Powers of Attorney.
There are 2 types of LPA, financial & medical and they allow you to nominate one or more attorneys and one or more replacements for those, to act either jointly (ie only make decisions they both/all agree on) or jointly and severally (ie to be able to act alone, and if specified only under certain circumstances). This means that by filling out the right paperwork, getting consent and witnesses, and paying the fee I can:
- organise for W to make financial decisions on my behalf and access my accounts as necessary to do this
- allow B to take over that role if W is incapable
- Prepare for them both to be able to make decisions about my welfare
- Require them both to agree before giving me certain treatments or eg moving me to a care home
I feel that this (combined with a formal will) offers the potential for the clearest recognition of B’s importance to me and the relevance of his thoughts to my life without undermining W’s. Of Course it would be easier if I could just marry them both or write out a simple statement of intent but the law doesn’t allow that.
The trick is going to be getting them to agree with me about the importance of these bits of legal paperwork and about what I am potentially asking them to do without causing offence or upset.
Now Just Imagine how much more complicated it would be if we had children…