A brief introduction to Living Wills ('Advance Decisions')

What would you like to happen if, for example, you were terminally ill and in a coma at the end of your life? Would you rather doctors withheld treatment?

This is where a Living Will comes in, as it allows your wishes to be heard, even if you cannot express them yourself. It is important to express your wishes clearly in writing.

There are many reasons to make a Living Will. An accident could leave you unconscious, a stroke could render you unable to communicate or dementia could rob you of your ability to make decisions.

In these situations Doctors will decide what medical treatment is in your ‘best interests’ unless you make your wishes known.

Making a Living Will

The official name for a Living Will is an Advance Decision. It only covers the medical treatments you wish to refuse and the circumstances in which you wish to refuse them.

To make a Living Will you must be aged 18+ and have mental capacity under the terms of the Mental Capacity Act. It is a good idea to get your Doctor to witness any document for this reason.

If you have a terminal illness it is likely that your Doctor will ask you about your wishes and will probably detail them in your notes. This is perfectly acceptable as an Advance Decision.

You cannot always predict when you will need a Living Will, so it is a good idea to make one now. Using a Solicitor is optional, but they could help you consider the issues and get the wording right.

Certainly, it is best to express your wishes in writing, as then family, friends and Doctors can be sure it is what you want.

One thing: if you have made or are thinking of making a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) the two documents can conflict. For example the Living Will takes precedence if it is more recent and vice versa.

Additionally, it is a good idea to review, sign and date a Living Will regularly to confirm it still expresses your wishes – but do bear in mind that this could affect your LPA. It is best to take advice.

What is an ‘advance statement’?

This is also sometimes referred to as a ‘Living Will’ and it expresses your broader, non-medical wishes, such as any religious, dietary or other personal care requirements you would like observed.

It is not legally binding but must be taken into account by your carers or representatives. It can be a useful addition to a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) document.


Wills

  • Will drafting
  • Review of existing Wills
  • Advice re provision for children, second families, spouses and civil partners, unmarried partners and other family members
  • Advice re charitable gifts
  • Advice re foreign and business assets
  • Advice re Will trusts
  • Codicils
  • Inheritance Tax advice

Trusts

  • Advice re Trust creation and ongoing management
  • Preparation of trust deeds and other trust documentation
  • Declarations of Trust
  • Termination of trusts

Probate and Administration of Estates

  • Advice re the terms of the Will or intestacy rules where there is no Will
  • Obtaining values for the various assets and liabilities in the estate, notifying the various institutions and obtaining all necessary estate information
  • Obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration as appropriate
  • Dealing with and advice re Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax, liaising with HMRC
  • Notifying and liaising with the beneficiaries of the estate
  • Preparing a deed of variation or a deed of disclaimer in relation to the estate
  • Selling or transferring the various assets due to the beneficiaries
  • Dealing with foreign assets and Wills
  • Advice re estate disputes and claims against an estate

“If it had not been for the EPA I would have had real problems even discussing my mother’s affairs with banks, investment companies, government departments and care providers, much less paying her bills from her account.

“Being able to supply copies of the EPA to the various parties meant they would speak to me and act on my instructions. Without it I would have had to pursue a long, complicated and expensive legal process – at a very difficult time personally.

“I would absolutely recommend planning ahead and making an LPA. It could make a huge difference to your loved ones.”

Paul

“If it had not been for the EPA I would have had real problems even discussing my mother’s affairs with banks, investment companies, government departments and care providers, much less paying her bills from her account.

“Being able to supply copies of the EPA to the various parties meant they would speak to me and act on my instructions. Without it I would have had to pursue a long, complicated and expensive legal process – at a very difficult time personally.

“I would absolutely recommend planning ahead and making an LPA. It could make a huge difference to your loved ones.”

Paul

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