Getting your affairs in order is often seen as something that we should tackle in later life. However, it is an ongoing process, which we should all start much earlier, according to Lucy James, Coodes Solicitors Private Client Executive.
The phrase ‘getting your affairs in order’ is widely used, but what does it really mean and when is the best time to do it? Getting your affairs in order is really about ensuring you have legally binding documents in place that set out your wishes for your assets and the most important aspects of your life. This is something we should all have in place throughout our adult lives.
Most clients who come to us to discuss getting their affairs in order, which could involve making a Will or putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), are elderly. However, I believe it is important for us all to have our affairs in order much earlier.
There are a number of reasons why people delay making a Will. Coodes Partner Richard Pollock outlines some of the more surprising ones here. In my experience, many people put off making a Will because they don’t want to face the fact that they will die one day – some even believe that making a Will could somehow ‘tempt fate’.
Sadly, we have supported clients who are faced with having to make what it is sometimes referred to as a ‘death bed Will’. This is when someone has been told they do not have long to live and they then need to put in place a Will as quickly as possible. This is far from ideal as that person should be able to see out their final days or hours in peace without the added pressure of having to put something into place to make their wishes known.
It is far better to make a Will early in adult life, when you are healthy and have the time and then review and update the Will every three to five years or as your situation changes, for example if you marry, have children, inherit money, separate or divorce.
Of course, a Will does not just deal with material possessions. We would urge parents to put a Will in place to record their wishes for guardianship of their children. That means they can specify who they would like to look after their children, should they pass away before their children reaches 18 years old.
A Will also allows you to state who you would like to deal with your estate after your death, which can prevent family disagreements. In addition, it gives you the chance to specify your wishes for your funeral. This is far easier to do when you are still healthy and less likely to be over-emotional. Having this set out in a Will can ease the pressure on your family, who may not know or disagree on what you would have wanted.
Setting up a LPA is the best way to ensure a trusted friend or family member understands your wishes for your care and is able to manage your finances, should you become unable to do so in the future. We often refer to an LPA as being like an insurance policy. This could be something you need when you are much older, but LPAs can be used if someone loses capacity as the result of a brain injury or stroke, for example, which can unfortunately happen at any age.
There are two types of LPA: one for property and financial affairs and one that covers health and welfare. Having both in place will give you peace or mind that you have someone ready to act on your behalf, should you need them to do so.
Do not to leave it until the last minute to get your affairs in order. No one knows what the future holds, so the best approach is to treat getting your affairs in order as an ongoing process.