At this time of sweeping uncertainty, we are, as individuals and collectively, taking the necessary steps to protect one another from the spread of COVID-19.
As many businesses close their physical locations in favour of remote working and all non-essential travel is eliminated, our thoughts will surely move to loved ones near and far.
However uncomfortable, we are committed to addressing all possible legal concerns which may be at the forefront of our clients’ minds and feel it is our duty to provide reassurance at this difficult time.
Whilst face to face meetings may not be possible at present, we nevertheless continue to assist our clients in preparing or updating their wills, in putting together lasting powers of attorney and in starting or continuing to administer the estates of those who have passed.
In response to the many enquiries we have received in recent weeks with regards to the coronavirus outbreak, the following sets out a number of recommendations and professional advice aimed at helping you to protect both yourself and your loved ones and what to consider when preparing for the worst.
At this unpredictable time, you may be worried that your Will is not up to date or that you have yet to create one. It is, of course, important to have a valid Will on death so that loved ones know your wishes and are able to deal with your estate effectively and efficiently.
Instructions for Wills can be taken by telephone; draft documents can be sent by post and a further telephone conversation can be arranged to go through the details and make any changes. Wills can then be sent directly to you with clear instructions as to the signing process and next steps.
Where appropriate, meetings can be arranged as safely as possible for witnessing. You should not be put off by the current circumstances from updating your current will where necessary or putting a new one in place.
Existing powers of attorney
Equally, if you have any concerns over your existing powers of attorney, our advice is to review all documents as soon as is possible to ensure they are up to date.
Arranging lasting powers of attorney (LPA)
Lasting powers of attorney are put in place while you have full mental capacity to appoint one or more individuals to act as your attorneys, should you become physically or mentally unwell. If you or a loved one is struggling to manage their financial affairs or their health and welfare and they do not have a power of attorney in place, you may be wondering about the timeframe in which this can be arranged.
Lasting powers of attorney for health and welfare can only be used if you have lost your mental capacity but the power of attorney for property and financial affairs can be used on your instruction while you still have capacity.
The process of putting lasting powers of attorney in place involves not only your signature(s), but also that of a person called a ‘certificate provider’. This is usually a solicitor but can be someone you have known for two years, who is not going to be your attorney. After you and the certificate provider have signed, your attorneys sign. All signatures have to be made in the presence of a witness.
When complete, the LPAs have to be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian and this process can take 6-8 weeks.
It may be that, in relation to your property and financial affairs, your inability to look after you own affairs is indeed temporary. If this is the case, you are legally able to regain control of your affairs once you have made a full recovery.
However, it is also important to note that, in relation to the above, you will need to have the mental capacity to put the powers into place, so forethought on this is essential.
This may all seem very daunting but our solicitors are here to help and are happy to arrange a no obligation discussion to explore how you might put the documents in place in the current difficult circumstances. Read more about LPAs here.
More urgent matters and General Powers of Attorney
The impacts of the coronavirus are such that urgent legal advice in respect of your estate may need to be sought. Also known as an ordinary power of attorney, general powers of attorney can be a very versatile document for a wide variety of purposes.
Completing a general power of attorney can be accomplished relatively quickly and can allow the appointed attorney to manage property and financial affairs, if the donor retains capacity. It could also be used to allow the attorney to execute deeds on the donor’s behalf, such as a transfer deed or to complete a commercial transaction in the donor’s stead.
We shall be continuing with all of our work in relation to existing and new wills, lasting powers of attorney and estate administration matters and we can be reached by telephone and email as normal. Find out more about Steele Raymond’s approach to remote working and business continuity in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
If you have any questions regarding the impact of coronavirus upon your personal or financial matters or are seeking up-to-date legal advice, contact Sue Adams on 01202 294 566 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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