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‘Get Talking About Wills’ In Dementia Awareness Week

Public Urged To Embrace This Year’s Theme And Discuss The Future


By Rob Dixon

Will dispute experts are calling on the general public to give their backing to Dementia Awareness Week 2013, by embracing this year’s theme of talking and sitting down with loved ones to discuss their hopes for the future.

The annual flagship campaign across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, organised by the Alzheimer’s Society, is taking place from May 19th to 25th and this time around it is focusing on the importance of being open about and aware of the condition by talking about it.

Backed by actress Ruth Jones, the aim of this year’s campaign is to ensure that by discussing the issue, more people will be aware of the impact of the condition and also be prepared to face it. It is thought around 800,000 people in the UK have dementia, with the number expected to reach 1,000,000 by 2021.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team have given their backing to the campaign and urged people to embrace the call for them to talk about the condition and what it may mean for the future.

Adam Draper, a Partner at the national law firm who specialises in contesting wills, said: “We have seen numerous occasions when the onset of dementia has caused many problems for families, often leaving loved ones facing difficult disputes over how an estate should be divided.

“The best way for people with dementia fears to tackle this is to simply be open and honest with their relatives and close friends from the outset and ensure that they fully discuss just how they expect their assets to be split.

“By planning early and leaving a clear set of instructions, people could end up sparing their loved ones a lot of difficulties. The best advice is simply to embrace this theme and get talking – not just about dementia and the impact of the condition, but the important decisions which you need to make for the future.”

Adam added that there are three issues which people should consider when thinking about the future:

Write A Will And Update It Regularly

He explained: “Having a will prepared with the support of a professional legal expert will mean that your relatives have concise instructions about what they expect to happen to their estate upon their death.

“Bear in mind that you should also get this updated as and when your circumstances change. By doing this at an early stage you will be providing vital support to your family.”

Appointing Someone To Take Care Of Your Affairs

Gillian Coverley, a Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Wills team, added: “By executing a Lasting Power of Attorney, people are able to ensure that a loved one is able to make decisions about their financial affairs and other issues on their behalf.

“This is hugely important as we have seen some cases in the past when people have failed to take such a step and, as a result, loved ones have been unable to access funds and investments which loved ones need to finance vital care and support.

“By thinking about the unexpected and taking this step, people again can save their loved ones a lot of problems in the future.”

The Golden Rule

Adam Draper added: “The Golden Rule is a vital issue for people to bear in mind when they’re looking to ensure that a loved one’s wishes are met, particularly when it is clear that the onset of dementia has begun to impact on their ability to make decisions.

“It is based around the idea that the will of a person who has suffered a serious illness must be witnessed by a medical practitioner who is satisfied with the testator’s abilities and capacity to make such a document.

“In addition, any instructions from the testator must also be taking while no one who may benefit from the will - or amendments to it – are not present. This is of course to prevent any situation from arising where there may be a claim of someone putting undue influence on the testator.

“This is a hugely important issue as, if the rule is not followed, families may create problems for themselves and open up relatives to the opportunity to challenge any will provisions which are in place.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Wills and Probate