A cautionary tale – it’s never too early to plan for your future whilst you’re fit and able to make informed decisions, guided by legal expertise.
Our client (“Bruce”) contacted Ezra Legal regarding his elderly, unmarried Aunt “Mary”, who lived in another part of the country. He advised us Social Services had placed her in a care home, as she was no longer able to care for herself at home.
Bruce was outraged at what he perceived to be the high-handed attitude of the Local Authority as he told us he was the next-of-kin and couldn’t understand what right the Local Authority had to interfere in her affairs.
Ezra Legal explained that the Local Authority has a statutory duty of care to their elderly residents. Bruce rarely visited his Aunt, so it was no surprise that he was out of touch with developments.
Unless his Aunt had taken action whilst she was fit and well and had made a Power of Attorney to cover the possibility that one day she might be in the situation where she couldn’t manage her own affairs, then the Local Authority were safeguarding her interests and the only solution was for Bruce to apply to the Court of Protection to become her Deputy.
We advised Bruce that this process can take at least 6 months, during which time Mary’s affairs would be in a state of limbo.
In contrast another couple, “Edward and Jenny”, had addressed similar issues with us some years earlier whilst they were both fit and able to do so. Sadly, Jenny was now suffering from dementia and Edward had bowel cancer. It seemed likely that Edward might die before Jenny.
Back in 2010, Edward and Jenny had sought estate planning advice from Ezra Legal on how they could best structure the ownership of their assets to better protect themselves and their two sons, “Jonathan and Peter”, as they planned for old age and end of life. Following our advice, they changed the way that they owned their house. Instead of the survivor owning all the house after the first of them died through a joint tenancy, they now owned the house as ‘Tenants in Common’. This meant they each owned a distinct half-share in the house, which instead of going outright to the lone survivor, went in accordance with their Wills, which was drawn-up as part of the estate planning process.
The Wills gave the lone survivor the right to live in the house until death or earlier if the survivor no longer permanently lived there.
Sadly, in 2018 Edward died before Jenny, who then went into a care home. The house was sold by their two sons, who had been appointed executors of Edward’s Will and the attorneys of Jenny, under a Lasting Power of Attorney, which she made whilst fit and mentally capable.