With the UK ramping up its approach to coronavirus, we all want to protect those closest to us and many of us are taking steps to do just that. Working from home is fast becoming the norm and we’ve been advised to avoid non-essential travel and social gatherings.
If you’re worried about whether there’s anything else you need to do to look after your nearest and dearest, just in case the absolute worst happens, here’s a few recommendations as well as some advice on what do if something does happen to a loved one.
What steps can you take to prepare for the worst?
There’s a few key steps you can take to make life as easy as possible for your loved ones in case something happens to you.
Lasting powers of attorney
Lasting powers of attorney allow you to appoint attorneys to look after you and your assets in case you cannot do so yourself. There are two types of lasting powers of attorney, one for finances and property and another for health and welfare. We suggest:
- Locating lasting powers of attorney and making sure they’re registered. Your attorneys may need to use them or you may need to use powers to look after your loved ones, so make sure you know where powers of attorney are and that they have been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
- Making new lasting powers of attorney to ensure someone can manage your affairs if you’re not able to. Check with loved ones to see if they need to make powers of attorney so you or someone else can step in if needed.
Having an up-to-date will is important. It ensures the right people inherit from your estate and avoids unnecessary delays and costs. We suggest:
- Reviewing your will to make sure it is up to date and reflects your wishes. Make sure your loved ones know where to find your will in case it is needed.
- Making a will if you haven’t already done so. Hopefully it won’t be needed for some time, but at least you have peace of mind that something is in place. Parents in particular should make sure they have appointed guardians to look after their children.
Compiling key information and documents
Make a physical or electronic file explaining where important documents (e.g. your will and powers of attorney) are (e.g. with a solicitor or bank), with a list of assets and who to contact (e.g. bank accounts, investment portfolios, pensions, life insurance) and recording important information (e.g. login details and passwords). Keep these safe and make sure your relatives know how to access them.
What to do if a loved one falls ill
Hopefully the vast majority of us will only suffer mild symptoms if we contract the virus. Some of us will fall ill, though, and for a few the illness will be very serious.
If a loved one falls seriously ill:
- Find out if they made powers of attorney in case they are needed. If no powers of attorney have been made, and they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves and are unlikely to be able to for some time, you may need to make a deputyship application. This means the court will appoint someone to look after their affairs.
- Ask them where to find key documents and who their solicitor is (if you’re able to).
- Check to see if they’ve made a will. If not, and they are well enough, consider whether they can and should make an emergency will just in case it is needed.
What to do if you lose a loved one
Some have already lost loved ones and the sad truth is that more of us will do so before the worst of the virus passes. Dealing with a death is never easy and it will be all the harder with the crisis the country is currently facing. If you do lose someone, the first steps you need to take are:
- Register the death within 5 days with your local register office. You’ll usually need an appointment and should check if they remain open before travelling. Take the medical certificate with you and obtain plenty of copies of the death certificate to send to institutions. Make sure you get a Tell Us Once reference number and use this to notify all the government departments.
- Ensure their property is secure by making sure the house is locked and buildings and contents insurance is in place (it can lapse on the death of the policy holder).
- Arrange the funeral if your loved one hasn’t already. At the time of writing, funerals can still take place. However, between social distancing and self-isolation expect that not everyone will able to attend. You may want to consider a quick burial or cremation with close family in attendance and a memorial service at a later date.
- Check if they made a will. Try their personal papers and/or solicitor. If they did, check who the executors are, notify them and send them the original will (if you have it). Check if they had life insurance or death in service benefits. If they did, notify the insurer of their death and send them a copy of the death certificate.
- Talk to solicitors about dealing with probate (gathering in the assets, filing tax returns, paying inheritance tax, obtaining probate, paying debts and administering the estate in accordance with the will). If the estate is simple, you may feel comfortable doing this yourself.
We are here to help. If there is anything we can do, please get in touch.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.