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Welfare MATTERS – Spring/Summer 2017

Welcome to the Spring-Summer 2017 edition of our Welfare Matters newsletter.  In this edition we discuss the importance of being socially active to avoid and overcome the detrimental feelings of loneliness and isolation – this is becoming more and more of an issue for people at all stages of life, not just the elderly. We also look at how you can write your will to benefit a vulnerable adult.  And find out more about having us come to talk to your local group, as well as our new team member in our Aberdeen office.

In this edition

Loneliness and isolation

Your will – helping a vulnerable adult

We like to talk!

Our Aberdeen office

Meet the team

Loneliness and Isolation

Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience.  Research shows that loneliness and isolation are harmful to our health and can be as bad as other well known risk factors such as obesity and smoking.   Feeling physically fit and mentally well is important at any age, but particularly as we get older – people who feel fit and well often have a more positive outlook on life.  Make sure you are looking after yourself by eating sensibly, getting enough sleep and being active.

The company of others and a regular weekly outing to look forward to, can help reduce the feelings of loneliness.  Many local church groups or community centres run lunch clubs, social groups and exercise classes for the over 60’s. When we are lonely, it can sometimes be hard to reach out to others, we might worry that others won’t like or want to spend time with us, but this is rarely the case. Learning to feel comfortable with ourselves can be an important first step.

We are all unique individuals and there are many reasons why we may find it difficult to connect with people in the way that we would like.   Some of these may relate to how we are feeling, but others may be about practical problems such as transport or finance.  Ensure that you are claiming any benefits to which you may be entitled, such as Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance. Pension Credit is a benefit that is under claimed, you just need to call the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234, to check if you qualify. 

If you can use public transport make sure you take advantage of discounts for the over 60’s – you could purchase a senior rail card which entitles you to a third off most train journeys, and then of course there is the good old bus pass !  Most of us will feel lonely at some points in our lives, but feeling lonely need not be an inevitable part of ageing. Make an effort to get out and about more, and you’re sure to feel more positive.

Jo Cox, the politician, who was murdered last year, believed that “we have more in common than that which divides us”. A campaign to tackle loneliness has been launched in her name and this summer there will be a series of street parties in her honour. Check out “The Great Get Together” for a party near you. We all deserve to be happy!

Your will – helping a vulnerable adult

Did you know that if you want to leave money to somebody who may be deemed to be a vulnerable adult, leaving a simple legacy to them in your will may not result in the best outcome for them?  If you discuss your beneficiary’s circumstances with your solicitor, there may be alternative ways to help that minimise possible downsides.

A vulnerable adult could be a person who is in receipt of means-tested benefits, somebody who is unable to manage their own affairs, perhaps due to learning difficulties or mental health problems, somebody who has an addiction or even somebody who may be facing financial difficulties such as divorce or bankruptcy.

Leaving money to a vulnerable adult outright can, paradoxically, be problematic for the beneficiary. For example, if the beneficiary is receiving means-tested benefits there is a risk that they are no longer eligible for the same package of benefits or that their benefits are stopped completely.  The concern might then be that the sum inherited is not managed carefully for the longer term and is spent more quickly or in other ways than you might have hoped.  Once it’s gone, if the vulnerable adult then needs financial support again they would have to go through the process of re-applying and being assessed for benefits with no guarantee that they would be eligible for the same financial assistance as before.

Fortunately, there are some alternative ways to leave money or other assets to a vulnerable adult.  You could think about setting up a trust in terms of your will with trustees appointed to manage the funds or other assets on behalf of the vulnerable adult.  There are different types of trust that could be used, depending on the beneficiary’s circumstances and your own wishes, and they can be very useful tools to ensure that the inheritance provides real help and support to the beneficiary. These circumstances are more common than you might think, and at Balfour+Manson we have years of experience of dealing with these matters sensitively. Explaining the background fully to your solicitor means that they can advise you on your individual circumstances and ensure that you have done all you can do to help the vulnerable adult. 

If you would like more information, or to discuss your own situation, please contact us. 

We like to talk!

There’s nothing better than personal contact, especially when we are talking about such personal issues as wills, powers of attorney, planning for the future.  Although we are happy to deal with clients over the phone, by email or letter, we enjoy meeting people in person and believe it’s the best way to get to know each other properly.  We also know that sometimes you just want a bit more information and a little time to think things through before instructing a solicitor or engaging the support of our Client Welfare Team. 

We regularly run presentations and seminars for local groups, where you can find out more about the services we provide and how we might help you.  Recently, we’ve been asked along to weekly church groups, women’s groups, bowling clubs and Probus groups.  This gives you the chance to ask questions and probe our solicitors about drafting wills, who to appoint as your attorney, what’s involved in being an attorney yourself, the nuts and bolts of inheritance tax, and get an update on current topics facing modern families.  We will also tell you a bit more about what our Client Welfare Managers can offer as support and assistance to elderly and vulnerable adults, and we welcome your questions and discussions.

We’ve had great feedback from our talks, with many groups inviting us back again.  We’ve enjoyed lively and interesting discussions about all sorts of issues from how to make gifts to help the younger generations without getting tangled up in the inheritance tax net, how your solicitor would deal with different assets in your estate (including digital assets and online accounts), what sort of changes in circumstances require changes to your will, to how you are expected to make decisions on behalf of another adult if you are an attorney, and how to make sure your attorney knows what your own wishes would be.

We would be delighted to hear from you if you are involved in any social, business, networking or community groups – we don’t charge any fees for this, all we need is the use of your meeting place and an enthusiastic audience!  Please contact us if you would like more information and to arrange a talk for your own group.

Aberdeen Office

We would like to take this opportunity to highlight the services available within our Aberdeen office.  Balfour + Manson first opened an office in Aberdeen in 2004 and moved to its current office at 42 Carden Place after joining forces with long-established city firm Duthie Ward in June 2016. It has 16 staff in Aberdeen.  

We are pleased to welcome Amy McKay who has recently joined us as an Associate and who specialises in residential property and private client work.  

Amy and our team would be happy to assist you, please contact the Aberdeen office on 01224 498080.

Meet the team
Shona Brown, Head of Client Welfare Team

Shona is a Private Client Partner and heads up our client welfare team.  She has a particular interest in working with elderly and vulnerable people and those who lack capacity, as well as supporting their families. Her expertise includes setting up and managing trusts including personal injury trusts, succession planning, asset protection and tax planning. Shona originally qualified and worked as a dentist before returning to university to study law in 1991.

Jo Downie

Jo is our Client Welfare and Estates Manager which combines her unique background in nursing and in antiques and fine art.  As well as looking after vulnerable clients, supporting them through moving home, she has an excellent eye for placing items in auction and is often to be found examining her friends’ household contents. 

Fiona Shand

Fiona, our Client Welfare Manager, has a background in community policing and social work and focuses on guiding clients through the state benefits system as well as helping clients access care at home or move into alternative care settings.  She really enjoys reading books with murderous themes.

Elizabeth Sparks

Elizabeth is a solicitor with a particular interest in guardianship applications as well as powers of attorney, wills and executries.  She tutors Revenue Law at Edinburgh University and maintains that this is very interesting.  She enjoys holidaying on Colonsay to get away from it all.

Catriona Torrance

Catriona is a private client solicitor specialising in wills, powers of attorney, executries and related matters. However, she prefers to say that she specialises in getting to know her clients and offering advice that really suits their particular circumstances.  She has recently discovered an innate aptitude for making the most delicious lemon curd.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article site are solely those of the original authors and other contributors and do not purport to give specific legal advice.