Planning for Later Life

10 October 2017

Caring for Alan

We’d like to introduce you to Alan, an elderly pensioner who is enjoying his retirement. Alan keeps himself very busy with his numerous hobbies. He is very close to his family, who live nearby and they all enjoy spending time together.

Sadly Alan develops dementia. This is very difficult for his family who struggle with watching Alan deteriorate. Eventually it comes to the point where Alan is no longer able to pay his bills or get to the shops to buy food. The family decide that they need to step in to ensure that Alan still has a warm home and food in the cupboards. They know that Alan has been living comfortably in his retirement, with a steady pension income as well as savings. They explain the situation to his bank and ask what the process is to access Alan’s money, so that they can continue ensuring he’s provided for.

The bank informs the family that they will not be able to access Alan’s finances without his permission, but because of his health, he is no longer able to give his permission. Their only option is to make a deputyship order to the courts. They struggle to come to an agreement over who should apply to become Alan’s deputy, as this will be the person who has the authority to make decisions on Alan’s behalf and several family members believe that they are the best placed to do this. The inability to decide who should take this role causes tensions within the family.

No progress can be made until a decision is reached, and managing Alan’s affairs without access to his finances is becoming increasingly difficult, so eventually they agree that Alan’s nephew, Brian, will make the application.

Brian quickly discovers that this is just the beginning. He has a mound of paperwork to complete and it takes 6 months before the Court appoints Brian as the deputy. Throughout the course of the deputyship the family has to cough up thousands of pounds in legal and Court fees.

For the next two years the family use Alan’s pension and savings to ensure that he is well provided for, but tensions remain between them. Then Alan passes away. There is no record of what kind of funeral Alan would like and again this causes upset between family members as some people disagree on what he would have wanted.

The family learn that Alan did not have a Will, so it’s also unclear who should arrange and pay for the funeral. No one is able to go to his house to begin sorting through his belongings until they can work out who is legally entitled to do this. In the absence of a Will, the law decides who will inherit Alan’s home, money and possessions. Some members of the family who paid to support Alan while the deputyship was being arranged are not legally recognised as people who should inherit from Alan, including Brian. This causes further upset between family members, many of whom feel that others are benefitting from Alan’s Estate in a way that he would not have wanted.

By having the right Life Planning in place Alan could have ensured that his wishes were clear with regards to his funeral, his day-to-day preferences, who he would choose to make his decisions and who he would want to inherit his money and possessions. But because he didn’t, his loved ones faced a mountain of paperwork, significant expense and a lot of stress.

We hear about people like Alan all the time, so we got to wondering how many of us actually have the necessary plans in place. Not many, it seems. Of those we asked, over 45% of people didn’t have a Will and over 84% didn’t have full Life Planning in place*.

When we asked them why they didn’t have a Will, the majority said they hadn’t got round to it yet. Over a third of people asked said they assumed their family members would automatically take over their affairs if they lost mental capacity (which isn’t true!).

So like Alan, most people prefer to put their Life Planning off until another day. We understand, as it often seems like a lot to organise, and you might not know where to start or who to contact. But it’s important to get round to it before it’s too late, as this will ensure your wishes are clear, and your loved ones are better protected.

To make things easier for you, Co-op offers online services so that you can organise your Life Planning needs from the comfort of your own home.

* Research carried out by Atomik in May 2017 involving 2006 participants across the UK.

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