Coronavirus: 5 key legal documents you should prepare

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has altered the routines of most people. At a time like this, it may be worth considering what legal documents can protect you and your family’s welfare. Making these documents isn’t only important during the COVID-19 crisis but crucial for managing your affairs at any time. Read on to find out what documents you should make to manage your affairs and protect your family. 

What are the key legal documents that I should have during this global pandemic?

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has drawn attention to the fact that some of us don’t have the legal documents in place to protect ourselves and our families’ interests. The following are 5 documents that will help manage your affairs and safeguard your welfare during an emergency:

  1. Living will
  2. Last will and testament
  3. General power of attorney (POA) 
  4. Revocation of power of attorney 
  5. Cohabitation agreement

What is a living will and why do I need it?

A living will states your wishes regarding medical decisions and takes effect when you’re incapacitated eg in an irreversible coma and can no longer communicate your decisions.

Through your living will, you can make an advance decision on what treatments you wish or don’t wish to be subject to. This includes whether you want to be kept alive artificially and allows you to set out specific instructions with regards to matters such as autopsy and any arrangements for your remains.  

This document can only be created when you are of sound mind and can be revoked or amended at any time while you’re still mentally sound. The decisions contained therein are legally binding so you should discuss your living will with your family and your GP before making this document. 

Do I need a Will?

Everybody should have a Will that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed and utilised after your death. This will guarantee that your estate will be distributed in accordance to your wishes. You can also appoint your executors and guardians through this document.

Without a legally valid will, the rules of intestacy will apply, which follows a strict set of rules on beneficiaries, primarily focusing on close relatives, the person you married or the person you’re in a civil partnership with. This means that anyone that doesn’t fall within those categories won’t inherit anything. 

If you already have a Will, you should review its content to make sure it’s still in line with your wishes.

For further information, read Reasons to make a will.

If you’re interested to know whether you can electronically sign a will, read The future of wills.

How do I manage the affairs of my loved ones?

If your loved ones aren’t able to handle their own financial affairs because they’re in the hospital, they can appoint you as their attorney by executing a POA. This would grant you the legal authority to make decisions and sign documents on their behalf while they’re unavailable to act in person.

A POA is normally used for one-off events or short periods of time, while the donor (ie person granting the POA) is mentally capable of making their own decisions but simply unavailable to act in person for some other reason.

Generally a POA will terminate upon the end date specified in the document or when it’s been revoked by a revocation letter. It would also automatically end if the donor passes away. For more information on ending a POA, read Revoking a power of attorney and lasting power of attorney.

My partner just moved in with me during the lockdown, are there any legal considerations I should bear in mind?

It’s important for you and your partner to discuss any financial arrangements and legal implications of cohabitation. This is especially vital for those that plan on living together in the long run.

You and your partner should consider making a cohabitation agreement. This will set out the financial arrangements between you including how living expenses, assets and debts acquired during cohabitation would be shared and establish your rights if the relationship breaks down.

Chloe Lai