The start of a new year is traditionally a time when many of us take stock and make resolutions for the year ahead.
However, while gym memberships and healthy eating plans can often prove a short-term fad, there are other steps everyone can take that have a more lasting impact.
Estate planning is one of those things. Ensuring you have the correct legal documents in place provides valuable protection for yourself, your wealth and your family, now and for years to come.
In this blog, our specialist Private Client solicitors consider the three main legal documents every UK adult should have.
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that sets out what you want to happen when you die, including arrangements for how your assets will be distributed.
Why do I need a Will?
A Will protects your assets after you die and ensures they are distributed how you want.
Not having a Will puts your assets at risk and can lead to problems for your family and loved ones.
Having a Will is a crucial part of everyone’s estate planning and is particularly important if you aren’t married to your partner, have dependent children, or own property with someone else or overseas.
How do I make a Will?
Although it can be tempting to make a Will yourself by using an online template or to save money by choosing an unregulated Will writer, this can be risky and easily result in costly mistakes.
Writing a Will is only straightforward if a solicitor assists you. An experienced, regulated legal professional will ensure your Will is drafted correctly and reflects your wishes.
How much does it cost to make a Will?
At Larcomes, we offer fixed fees on simple wills for one person at £250 plus VAT and £450 plus VAT for married couples.
2. Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
A Property and Financial Affairs LPA is a legally binding document that allows someone (an ‘attorney’) to make decisions for you about your property and financial affairs if you are no longer able to.
This includes decisions such as buying and selling property, managing bank or building society accounts, paying household bills, and claiming pensions and other benefits.
Why do I need a Property and Financial Affairs LPA?
An LPA gives you more control over your future if you have an accident or suffer from an illness that means you lose mental capacity.
Mental capacity can be lost for various reasons, on both a short-term and permanent basis, for example, if you are unconscious or because of mental health problems, or if you have an accident or are suffering from dementia.
Regardless of your age, mental and physical incapacity can hit at any time, so it is crucial to plan ahead to ease the potential burden on family members and friends.
Without an LPA, your loved ones may need to apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed as your ‘deputy’ to act on your behalf. This can be expensive and prove a lengthy process, adding extra stress at an already difficult time. It also means that you can’t choose who your deputy is.
How do I make a Property and Financial Affairs LPA?
Under the existing system, LPAs can be made online but need to be printed off and submitted to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) to be registered.
The forms can be complicated, and without specialist assistance from an experienced LPA solicitor, it is easy to make mistakes during the application process.
How much does a Property and Financial Affairs LPA cost?
Larcomes offers fixed fees on LPAs. Our rate for one Lasting Power of Attorney (property and financial affairs or health and welfare) is £450 plus VAT (costings correct as of January 2024).
For both LPAs for one person, we charge £750 plus VAT; for couples, all four Lasting Powers of Attorney can be made for £1,000 plus VAT.
In addition, there is a compulsory cost of £82 to register a Power of Attorney with the OPG in England and Wales, with a discounted rate of £41 available to those earning less than £12,000 a year. Individuals on certain benefits are exempt from fees.
3. Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
What is a Health and Welfare LPA?
A Health and Welfare LPA works in much the same way as a Property and Financial Affairs LPA, although it covers decisions about health and welfare issues, such as medical treatments and care arrangements, including where a person should live and their day-to-day care.
It is a legal document that enables you to appoint someone you trust to make decisions about your health and welfare should there come a point when you are unable or unwilling to do so.
Why do I need a Health and Welfare LPA?
LPAs are a valuable ‘insurance policy’ by safeguarding against what happens if you lose mental capacity at a future point.
LPAs can provide for all eventualities and only come into effect if required.
Making a Health and Welfare LPA has significant benefits, such as ensuring you keep control by appointing someone of your choosing to make medical and care decisions for you, protecting your best interests, and saving money and time.
If you do not have a Health and Welfare LPA and you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself, a family member will be faced with applying to the Court of Protection for a deputyship order. It could also result in social services becoming involved in decisions about where you live and what care you require.
How do I make a Health and Welfare LPA?
As with a Property and Financial Affairs LPA, various forms must be completed, signed, witnessed and registered.
It is advisable to consult a solicitor when creating a Health and Welfare LPA, who will ensure it is in your best interests and is correctly set up and registered.
Our experienced Lasting Power of Attorney solicitors at Larcomes provide expertise and guidance on all areas of LPAs and the Mental Capacity Act. Please call us on 023 9244 8100 or make an online enquiry to find out how we can help.
How much does a Health and Welfare LPA cost?
Our health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney service costs £450.00 plus VAT (£540.00) for one document or £750.00 plus VAT (£900.00) for a married couple (one Health LPA each).
Together, Property and Financial Affairs and Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney cost £750.00 plus VAT (£900.00) for both documents for an individual or £1,000.00 plus VAT (£1,200.00) for a married couple.
LPAs also require an additional registration charge of £82 per document. However, this is subject to income and could be less or reduced to nil if certain benefits are received.
Solicitors for Estate Planning
At Larcomes, our private client solicitors will give you accessible, cost-effective and specialist legal advice on all estate planning matters, including Wills, LPAs, tax and trusts.
We have extensive experience helping a wide range of individuals and families with their legal needs and will guide you through the options that would best suit your circumstances.
Our solicitors are also fully accredited members of STEP, the professional body for trust and estate professionals worldwide.
Additionally, we are members of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), which is an independent, national organisation of lawyers, such as solicitors, barristers and legal executives who provide specialist legal advice for older and more vulnerable people, their families and carers.
Please note that this article is not intended as legal or professional advice. It is for general guidance only, and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.