No matter your age, stage of life or personal circumstances, there is no perfect time to start preparing for the future. As private client solicitors, there are three main documents that we would recommend everyone put in place no matter what their circumstances may be. It is important to recognise the difference between these documents and what the implications would be if each was put in place.
- Your Will
Writing a Will is the only way to ensure that your estate is distributed as you would wish on your death. The rules of intestacy, which apply should you die without a Will, are statutory and are set out in the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964. The only way to retain control of the distribution of assets after death is through writing a Will.
A Will is an important document no matter how big or small your estate is, whether you are married or single, whether you own property or not.
You can write your own DIY Will, but in order to ensure all aspects are considered, help from a Solicitor is always recommended.
- Your Power of Attorney
The benefits of having a Will are widely known. However, unless you have had experience of a Power of Attorney, the purpose and use may be unclear. A Power of Attorney, is a document that is put in place, whilst you still have capacity to do so, which allows your chosen attorney to act on your behalf. A common misconception of a Power of Attorney is that it can only be beneficial should you lose capacity. However, there are many situations where a Power of Attorney can be used if you are simply unable to do something for yourself at any given time. A Power of Attorney must be certified by either a Solicitor or Doctor, to ensure that the granter has capacity at the time of signing.
- Your Living Will/Advance Directive
The name Living Will is confusing and Advance Directive does not make the concept much clearer. Essentially a Living Will is a document put in place during someone’s lifetime to ensure that their wishes are considered when it comes to their medical care and treatment. A Living Will will often be considered alongside a Power of Attorney, however they provide different functions. A Living Will can help to prevent the use of life prolonging treatments if you are suffering from a terminal illness, you have lost capacity and it is unlikely that you will make a full recovery. A Living Will is not binding in Scotland, but can provide guidance to your family and healthcare professionals.
Each aspect of future planning has its own importance and each provides a distinct function. If you have any of these documents in place, it is important to review these, particularly if you have any change of circumstances.
If you need any advice about dealing with an estate, please get in touch with the Blackadders’ Private Client Teams working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and across Scotland.