LEGAL ISSUES FOR THE OVER SIXTIES

You might imagine that the main concern for the over sixties is either making a Will, if they don’t already have one, considering changes to an existing Will, or thinking about a Lasting Power of Attorney.  Incapacity can be caused for a variety of reasons – Dementia or Alzheimer’s are the obvious causes, but even an accident that puts you in hospital for several weeks may mean that you cannot deal with your affairs adequately.

Many people will have experienced difficulties when their own parents became incapable of dealing with their affairs and needed help paying bills or administering bank accounts.  If there is no Lasting Power of Attorney in place before there are any signs of incapacity, then there will be problems for the relatives.  If you leave making a Lasting Power of Attorney until it is too late then your nearest relatives have to apply to The Court of Protection to become a Deputy.  This involves numerous fairly complex forms, a fee of £400 and the requirement to complete annual returns.  The situation is even worse if you own a property jointly with someone who has lost capacity.  You not only have to become a Deputy, but also apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed a Trustee for that property.  So – make a Lasting Power of Attorney in advance.

However, at the beginning of the year my experience was what many people in their sixties or seventies are doing was not making a Lasting Power of Attorney or a Will, but considering a divorce.  Surprisingly enough, statistics reveal that the fastest growing age group for divorce is the over sixties and Cotswold Family Law speaks from experience as the first month of the year not only showed a massive increase in the number of divorces, but nearly all of those involved parties over sixty and several were over seventy five.  Sixty is indeed the new forty, couples perhaps realise that they may have longer together than they previously thought and that may have some disadvantages!

But overwhelmingly the advice for anyone is to make a Will.  It is relatively inexpensive, straightforward and makes matters much easier for those left behind.  Also if you are living with someone to whom you are not married – if you do not make a Will they will not receive anything from your estate apart from any jointly owned property.  When there is no Will then the Rules of Intestacy apply, which can have surprising consequences.  A cohabitee is not a relative and therefore does not receive anything under these Rules.  Even if you are married, your spouse will only receive a statutory legacy set according to these Rules.  If your estate is sufficient and you have children, your spouse will receive £250,000 and a life interest in the rest.  The statutory legacy increases if there are no children, but the message is make a Will.  Also, do consider a Lasting Power of Attorney and it seems you are never too old for a divorce!