My New Year Resolution is to Take My Own Advice

January 7, 2019 by Melinda @ Giles Wilson Solicitors

I spend a fair amount of my daily working life advising and drafting clients on making plans for their future, particularly for later life. Drafting their wills – speaking to them about how they would like to look after their loved ones that they leave behind, making Powers of Attorney – discussing with them who they would like to look after them if they were unable to make their own decisions due to incapacity. I advise clients of all ages to think about these things, each time they move house, or have a child or live with someone that they love that they are not married to. I speak of planning for the unexpected. Because in addition to the above, my work also involves helping a family pick up the pieces of sudden and expected death or incapacity, or unravelling an invalid or inappropriate will.

As I sit here in the last few days of 2018 and list the personal tasks I must get around to, and as I reflect on 2018, I realise that in both my personal and professional life amongst the many positive and happy events, it has also been a year of the sad and unexpected. A 48 year old father of 3 who died suddenly, with no warning, leaving 2 very young children and a widow, plus a teenage child from his first marriage, and an elderly mother whom he financially supported.  No will, and no guidance for his grieving family. On top of their abject grief we have had to try to support them in the financial and legal muddle that has ensued. A 34 year old young woman living with her partner in their jointly owned home who despite being cared for through her terminal illness by her parents and partner, did not make a will or deal with her death in service benefit trust forms. Would any of us find that easy to do when so ill? Better to do when we hope that situation will never occur.

These are just 2 of many real examples of situations I was closely involved with in 2018. Too many diagnoses of dementia to list – some of them too progressed to enable a Power of Attorney to be made. Too many sudden strokes causing immediate disability and incapacity. The case of Re Y [2018] was reported in the July 2018 where a 52 year old family and professional man known for his physical fitness had a severe heart attack. He fell into a coma and was on a life support machine for many months. Because he had not made any provision by way of an Advance Directive or Lasting Power for Attorney for Health & Welfare, his family (supported by the medical team) had to apply to court when they reached the decision amongst themselves that he would have wanted his life support machine turned off. In this case, Mr Y died before the final court decision that agreed with their choice – the judges wanted the hearing to go ahead because it was considered such an important decision to be made in the interests of public policy. But what a gruelling journey for his family and how less gruelling it could have been had they both known what his wishes would be and had they not had to go to court. 

So, this is why I realise that my own house is not perhaps as in order as it should be. I do not have a Power of Attorney for either Finances/Property or for Health/Welfare or an Advance Directive, and my Will probably does require updating, despite all the advice that I routinely dish out. And my blended family situation really does call for it. I keep myself fit, as did Mr Y. I have a close supportive family as did he. And I seriously hope that by preparing for the worse that old faithful Sod’s Law will keep away and my prep will never be necessary. But I won’t be leaving it to chance.

This article is by Melinda Giles at Giles Wilson Solicitors.  
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