COVID-19: The Must-Have Legal Documents Everyone Should Own
Updated: Jun 28
There are several legal documents that everyone should have in place. However, the majority do not think they need to consider putting their affairs in order until later in life. Postponing these or not having them in place until it is too late can cause unnecessary stress and heartache for family and loved ones.
This year, individuals and families were thrown into a new way of living and working throughout the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and whilst there has been some return to normality, we are still facing several disruptions to our normal routines.
Times like this highlight further the importance of some of these key legal documents. Having these prepared will protect you and your family, not only throughout the COVID-19 crisis but will also ensure you have safeguarded your affairs for the future.
These are some of the must-have legal documents you should consider and why:
· A will - Whilst it is not a comfortable subject considering life after death, not having a written will in place will mean that the disposal of your estate will be subject to the law of intestacy. This is where the law decides on how your estate is passed on so your affairs may not be carried out as you intended or your estate could not be passed on in accordance with your wishes. This can cause lengthy and costly delays, with unnecessary stress for those left behind.
Importance of having a will in place
- Ensures that your estate will be distributed in according with your wishes, it will also make it easier for your family or loved ones to manage your affairs at the time of your death.
- Intestacy - distributing the estate of someone who has died without a will – can be a time-consuming and stressful process. Your estate will be shared out in a standard way defined by the law and will not necessarily follow your intended wishes.
- A well drafted will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that may be payable on any money or property you leave behind.
- A will is vital if you have children or other dependants, to protect your family, allowing you to appoint guardians for example.
- If you already have a will, it is important that you review its content to ensure it is still in line with your wishes.
Preparing your will sooner rather than later, and ensuring you have one in place is one of the most vital legal documents you can have.
· Lasting Power of Attorney - A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows you to appoint one or more people (your attorney) to make decisions on your behalf about your property and finance or health and welfare at a time in the future when as a result of an accident or ill health you no longer have mental capacity to make decisions for yourself.
Why make an LPA?
If you lose mental capacity without an LPA in force your family and loved ones will not be able to make decisions for you or handle your affairs. Joint bank accounts may even be frozen. It will be necessary for someone to apply to the Court of Protection for the appointment of a deputy to handle your financial affairs, this may not be the person who you would have chosen for yourself. The procedure can be time consuming and expensive. If a decision needs to be made in respect of your health and welfare, the Court will make the decisions on your behalf, but will not interfere with decisions made by an attorney appointed under a Health & Welfare LPA, which are made in your best interests.
With a Lasting Power of Attorney, you can choose who should make financial decisions and who should make health and care decisions for you – and this doesn’t necessarily need to be the same person.
Cohabitation Agreement - One of the most common myths in English law is that there is such a thing as ‘common law marriage’. The current law which does apply to unmarried couples who separate is different to when the parties are married or have entered in to a civil partnership. All cohabitees (including cohabiting relatives) should have a Cohabitation Agreement regardless of how long they have lived together.
A Cohabitation Agreement is a wise precaution for the future and you can enter into a Cohabitation Agreement at any time during your relationship. It will establish your rights should the relationship breakdown and set out the financial arrangements regarding any assets, debts acquired during cohabitation or rights regarding any children. The cost of a properly drafted Cohabitation Agreement is a fraction of what you may spend on lawyers negotiating the maze of litigation if despite your hopes, your relationship does not last.
If your relationship has recently broken down it is important that you have specialist advice as soon as possible in relation to the following matters, where relevant:-
· Arrangements for your children, including financial arrangements
· Arrangements in respect of any property, whether solely or jointly owned
“Make the choice. Don’t take the chance”
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has launched a public awareness campaign “planning for the future” to encourage people to plan for their and their families’ futures. The message of the campaign “Make the choice. Don’t take the chance” is aimed at the 25-50 age groups, urging them to think about these issues as many do not think they are relevant to them.
Although forms can easily be downloaded on-line, they need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) to be effective. Without seeking legal advice, there is the danger of making errors of judgment in drafting the forms, which can make life unintentionally difficult for your attorneys in the future or even cause the OPG to reject it. Our legal experts are on hand to guide you through the process and find the right solution for you.
Seeking Legal Advice regarding Making a Will, LPA or Cohabitation Agreement
Rose & Rose have experienced people with expertise covering many different aspects of law and providing a personal approach and service. Our services list gives more details of these. One of our dedicated experts is only a call or email away and we are here to help. Contact us for a consultation , phone us on 0208 974 7490 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org