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Adults without children burying their heads in the sand when it comes to later life planning

Ignoring the future risks your estate going to relatives that you aren’t close to or worse still, don’t even like, warns lawyer.

The number of people aged over 65 without children is set to rise to two million by 2030, yet lawyers say this group is failing to plan for the realities of later life.

Nicola Waldman, private client lawyer at solicitors’ Hodge Jones & Allen says: “This is a problem of our generation. It’s understandable that people don’t want to think that far ahead but for some, not making plans now could mean their estate going to relatives that they aren’t close to or don’t even like. Significant others, close friends and favourite charities will all miss out.

“Naturally people with children assume that their children will advocate on their behalf and help with financial and health decisions if they lose capacity, yet adults without children are left in a planning quandary and often put off making decisions.

“It is far better to face to up to these issues now, while they are still able to make their own choices, rather than when it is too late and they have less control. The alternative may mean a stranger stepping in for you who has no idea of your true wishes. It could mean them making decisions about your finances, giving consent for treatment or operations, or how and where you should be cared for.”

Any adult with mental capacity can appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf in the event they lose mental capacity. This is done by creating a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), a legal document that lets you appoint one or more people to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types of LPA:

  • Health and welfare
  • Property and financial affairs

Adults can choose to make one type or both.

If there is no LPA in place and an individual has lost mental capacity, the Court of Protection will appoint a deputy to look after their financial and/or health care interests. A close friend or a relative can be appointed to be a deputy, but if there is no one to take on this role, it will fall to a professional deputy, such as a solicitor, who will charge fees to manage your interests.

Nicola says that three years ago her firm surveyed 300 adults without children and found that 59% of them hadn’t made a will. A further 55% hadn’t thought about who they would appoint to look after their financial interests and an even higher number, 65%, hadn’t thought about who they would appoint to speak to health professionals if they lacked the capacity to do so.

“Those figures were shocking at the time, but I’ve seen no evidence of the situation improving. It really is a ticking time bomb. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have come to see me lamenting their relative’s or friend’s failure to make a will and saying how the deceased would be horrified by the aftermath.”