Wills for the elderly: What you need to know

Having a will is important at any age, especially if you have a large estate. But it becomes even more important as you age. Despite this, it is one of those things that people end up putting off. As a result, many elderly people realise that they don’t have a will in place for when their time comes.

This can lead to panic and stress, so it makes sense to write a will as early as possible. Here’s what you need to know to help your elderly relative sort out a will.

What happens without a will?

If your elderly relative dies without leaving a will, their estate will become what’s called ‘intestate‘. The ‘Rules of Intestacy’ take effect, and the estate will then be distributed according to the law. The estate is unlikely to be distributed as your elderly relative wishes, which can cause a lot of problems.

Consult a solicitor

The first thing you will want to do is consult an experienced solicitor, especially one who specialises in legal services for the elderly. Your elderly relative may not know where to start, and this is where you can help.

Ask around the local area. Talk to their elderly friends, and relatives of those friends, because a good recommendation is often the best way to go.

If you cannot find a recommendation, use the internet. The benefit of the internet is that you can read independent reviews of different solicitors, and this can provide you with more information to go on, rather than just choosing the nearest solicitor or plucking one from the Yellow Pages.

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What should a will include?

An experienced solicitor will advise you on everything that needs to go into the will. However, in general, it will include everything that is included in your relative’s estate, including property, investments, savings, etc.

It will also state how these assets should be divided amongst certain people or charities.

This is a will at its most basic, but it should also contain details on what happens if the beneficiaries die before your relative dies, and whether you want to be cremated or buried.

And, importantly, the will should determine an executor. This is the person who will make sure your relative’s desires are met and who will deal with tax issues, such as inheritance tax.

Doing this with proper legal assistance is essential, otherwise it can lead to confusion and mistakes. Having a solid will in place will give your relative peace of mind, so always make sure you find an experienced solicitor to help.

Check the will regularly

Writing the will is the first and most important step, but you should also encourage your elderly relative to check it once a year or so, especially if their circumstances change. Amendments can easily be made to the original will, so reviewing it regularly is a good idea, and you can help them if necessary.

Such changes could include marriage, divorce, the death of a beneficiary, the purchase or sale of property, a large purchase like a new car, etc.

Lasting powers of attorney

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) is another important issue to consider. This is an important area, and it essentially allows your relative to appoint people who they trust to make decisions in their place regarding health, finances, property and welfare should they be unable to make such decisions due to mental or physical difficulties.

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Useful resources:

Age UK

Law Society