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Diagnosed with a serious illness? Why making a Will is so important

Whenever possible, it's a good idea to make your Will when you are in good health but sometimes, unexpected illness can come along and complicate things.

If this happens, it's important to grasp the nettle and sit down with your loved ones to talk about what you want to happen when you die.

Although an immensely difficult discussion, knowing that you have taken control at an emotional and distressing time can be empowering. And reviewing your Will means you are able to protect the people you care about most by ensuring that they are the ones who benefit from your estate.

Sadly, dying without a Will means your assets will be distributed according to intestacy rules and not necessarily your wishes which can cause upset for those you leave behind and sometimes expensive conflict too. It also often takes longer to deal with your estate and increases the costs.

When you know you are in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's

You can make a Will after you have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's as long as you are able to understand what you are doing and make decisions.

But as a precaution, and in case someone challenges your Will later on the grounds you lacked 'testamentary capacity', it's a good idea to get medical evidence confirming you are able to make a Will.

To meet this requirement, and as a safeguard, solicitors usually ask for a medical opinion when a person with a dementia diagnosis makes a Will.

Now is also a good time to:

  • Appoint an Attorney to look after your affairs if there is a loss of mental capacity in the future. You can appoint an Attorney by making a Lasting Power of Attorney. There are two types. One covers financial decision making and the other personal welfare decisions like where you live, your medical care, your clothes, diet and so forth.
  • Make a Living Will or Advance Directive which can outline what you want in terms of future care and treatment.

When you discover you have a serious illness

Again, it's not easy to talk about the prospect of dying when you are diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer, Parkinson's disease or Multiple Sclerosis, for example - even when the prognosis is good.

And there's no doubt about it, it is emotionally challenging to make a Will when you are also dealing with an illness.

But getting your house in order means you can concentrate on getting better or spending your time focusing on what's important to you without the nagging feeling that there is paperwork on the backburner that needs sorting out.

A correctly drawn Will is an inexpensive way of avoiding difficulties for your relatives and friends in the future in the event of your death. It puts you in control of the final destination of your estate including:

  • What you want to happen to your money, property and possessions;
  • Who you want to benefit from your estate;
  • How to best protect what you want to leave those beneficiaries. For example, by setting up a trust or taking steps to lessen the impact of inheritance tax;
  • Who you'd like to be the guardians for any children you have under the age of 18;
  • Who you want the executors of your Will to be.

You may also want to think about making a Lasting Power of Attorney or making a Living Will.

For help and advice about making or reviewing your Will when you have an illness, making a Lasting Power of Attorney or Living Will, please contact Wards Solicitors' Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.

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