Private: The Whys, Whats And Wherefores Of Statutory Wills

Finders International has worked on numerous cases where a statutory will application has been made. Usually it is the case that next of kin need to be researched and traced as soon as possible and we are happy to meet any deadlines involved.

Finders can provide you with cost-effective results promptly, whether you are acting as a deputy or in any other capacity.

A statutory will is made on behalf of someone who doesn’t have the mental capacity to make a will themselves. This can apply to older people with progressive conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, or a person who has suffered a brain injury.

If it can be shown that a person doesn’t understand the principles behind making a will and that they can’t make a will by themselves, an application can be made to the Court of Protection (which deals with applications relating to people who don’t have the mental capacity to manage their own affairs) for a statutory will.

If the person who has lost mental capacity had the foresight to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), a legal document appointing one or more people as attorneys, those appointed as attorney can make a submission to the Court of Protection to have a statutory will drawn up and approved.

However, sometimes people are not able to appoint attorneys before they lose capacity, or the people they appoint as attorneys are no longer willing or able to carry out the role. In such cases, the court appoints a deputy on their behalf.

Friends or family members can be deputies, as can professional people such as solicitors or lawyers. The role is similar to that of the attorney, except that the attorney is appointed by the person, rather than the Court of Protection. An attorney’s action  and behaviour is not monitored (unless there is a specific complaint) but deputies need to prepare annual returns for the Office of the Public Guardian detailing how they have spent the money of the person lacking mental capacity and decisions made on their behalf.

You do not need to be a deputy or attorney to apply to the Court of Protection to get agreement on a new statutory will, but it is a lot simpler if you are a deputy or attorney. Anyone who would have benefited under an existing will is also entitled to make an application – but they would have the additional burden of having to prove the person’s lack of mental capacity before things could progress.

The application needs to set out the financial circumstances of the impaired person, as well as the current arrangements made for their care. It should explain who is part of their family and the nature of those relationships, so the court can work out who might be expected to inherit when that person dies.

A draft of the proposed will that sets out division of the estate after the person dies may also be provided to the court.

Once the application is made, the judge appoints an official solicitor to assess the application independently and make any necessary representations to the court so that the will is fair to everyone involved.

People who could be affected in any way by the new will (such as someone who was a beneficiary in a previous will but is cut out of the new one) are parties to the hearing and can make their own representations.

The final decision about the will and its provisions for inheritance is made by the court and all parties must abide by the decision.

An order is then made allowing the applicant to sign the will on behalf of the person lacking capacity. The Court of Protection then seals the will with the official seal of the Court of Protection, making it a legal and binding document.

If you would like further information about statutory will research, please contact us on +353 (0)1 691 7252 to find out more.