Managing your affairs during a pandemic

Spending time in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic has motivated many people to organise their personal affairs, getting financial information up-to-date and addressing legal matters that are often ‘put off’ until later.

Two key matters that people may wish to consider during this time of reflection is to write or update an existing will, as well as considering arrangements should they become unable to manage their finance or personal matters due to incapacity.

Preparing a will 

It may become a priority to prepare a will and ensure that it reflects your current wishes. Many people without wills in place often erroneously believe their family will be provided for in any event after their death. While this is the case for some families, current intestacy rules do not cater for modern family structures such as cohabiting couples or families with stepparents or stepchildren.

Despite the Covid-19 lockdown offering people more time to consider the issues, the present circumstances have made it more difficult to make practical arrangements for wills to be witnessed. 

Despite the lockdown offering time to consider the issues, it’s more difficult to make arrangements

For a will to be valid it needs to be signed in the presence of two witnesses who are not linked to any beneficiary named in the will. The witnesses need to be physically present with the person making a will – it cannot be done over video link for example. 

Appointing someone to manage your finances

A lot of people who have not previously banked online are finding it increasingly difficult to manage their finances during the current crisis, particularly as they may be self-isolating. Where mental capacity is not an issue it may be advisable to put Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) into place to appoint people to assist with looking after finances.  

However, these documents are not valid until they have been registered by the Office of the Public Guardian and this process can take eight to 10 weeks. This may be too long for some people to wait in the current circumstances so we would recommend putting a general power of attorney in place during the interim period.

A general power of attorney temporarily allows the appointed person to manage finances for you and can be implemented as soon as it has been signed. It can also be revoked at any point while the person granting the power has the mental capacity to revoke it, but it would be automatically revoked once they lost capacity. For this reason, it is best to view this as a temporary measure while an LPA is put into place.

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