I recently had a “staycation” and during the week I had planned to sort out the pile of paperwork we seemed to be gathering in our study. Suffice to say, I had a great holiday doing things that I always plan to do but never have time to.

This did not extend to our personal admin, however!

The pile of papers we have gathered since Christmas moved, but, only across the corridor into the dining room and far out of sight. This pile has reduced since Easter but there is one important document still to be dealt with…

You would think that I should know better, my Dad had accident at 54 (incidentally, he is also a lawyer) and my brother-in-law (42) both required powers of attorney due to ill health but neither had them at the time they were required. While this has now prompted my in-laws and their families to organise their affairs, I know that the younger generation (my own husband included) often fail to see the importance of such paperwork.

I’m regularly at court representing the family of someone who suffers from dementia. In many cases the person suffering is unable to be discharged from hospital, sometimes for an extended period of time, before moving into residential care. In most cases someone needs to grant permission for a move.

If no-one has the legal authority to authorise such a move a court order is required. While it is normally possible to get an order in an emergency, a typical order takes around 6 months to be granted from the court. Once granted, this gives authority (typically to a family member) to make decisions regarding the person’s welfare and the payment of their care.

In stark contrast, I often hear from clients who have come to see me many years before, advising that that they are selling the family home. In some cases they have had to make a difficult decision to place a family member in residential care.

Thankfully, most of our clients have granted powers of attorney and are able to make all the necessary arrangements to deal with a loved one’s finances and property. A power of attorney gives an individual the power to appoint someone of their choosing in the event they are unable to act. I am always glad, at these stressful times that another family does not have to apply for a guardianship order.

So, I would love to say that you should follow my example. But while matters can be sorted out if the relevant paperwork is not in place (potentially requiring a court application) it is far simpler and far cheaper to have prepared the documents in advance.

You should view such documents a critical illness policy; you have one but hope to never use it. But just like my dad and my brother-in-law you never know when an accident can happen and your family are asked by medical or bank staff to produce said documents.

For those whose life is like mine, where you happily spend all day at ensuring everything is neat and up to date for others, sometimes we need to put our own interests first.

I know I am guilty of thinking certain things can just wait, but I would be so annoyed if I had not sat down with my husband and asked him (again) to sign the papers… I would be delighted to make the process as pain free as possible for you too (and I will happily chase you until the documents are completed!).