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The “I am able to deal with my spouse’s financial affairs for them should they be unable to do so” Myth

In the latest edition of her series of myth busting articles, Sarah Nash, Solicitor and Head of Astle Paterson’s Wills and Probate Department, discusses the common myth that married couples are automatically authorised to manage each other’s financial affairs should the other become unable to do so.

Sarah said, “Many people believe that, in the event of their husband or wife becoming unable to manage their financial affairs, they will be able to take over the management of them as of right.

This is not correct.

Whilst one spouse may be able to deal with, say, a bank account held in the joint names of the married couple, assets held in a spouse’s sole name can only be dealt with by the other with the specific authorisation of a Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney document.

This can cause difficulties when either a husband or wife becomes incapacitated, either mentally or physically – temporarily or permanently – and there is no-one who has been given authority to manage solely owned assets, which could include bank accounts.   For example, it could prevent a spouse from accessing funds to provide for their family’s needs and to manage the day-to-day payment of normal bills and outgoings.”

Sarah continued “If this does become an issue and there is no Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney in place then it would be necessary for an application to be made to the Court of Protection for it to appoint someone to make the necessary decisions.   As you will appreciate, this process is both costly and time consuming and the delay in itself is inevitably problematic.”

Sarah concluded “To avoid encountering these difficulties at a time that is usually already very stressful for the people involved, we advise our clients make a Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney whilst they are still in good health and well before there is any need to use it.”

Should you like to meet with one of our specialist Wills and Probate Lawyers, please telephone the Department’s direct telephone line on 01283 743969.

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