Book review: Elderly Clients: A Precedent Manual (4th edition)
The average life expectancy of a UK citizen increases by two years every decade. There can be little doubt that the issues faced by the growing number of clients of advancing years are increasingly significant for practitioners. Indeed, the landscape is fascinatingly and succinctly set out in chapter 1 of Lush and Bielanska’s fourth edition of Elderly Clients: A Precedent Manual.
The work neatly moves onto chapters on ‘Who is the client?’ and ‘Capacity’, issues that practitioners must address before any advice can be proffered or documentation prepared. The chapter on capacity will be particularly well-thumbed in my office, as comprehensive, client-focused advice on such a technical area is particularly hard to come by. The checklists provided can turn an otherwise chaotic file into an ordered defence against any later question over capacity and, if used correctly and in conjunction with other measures, could put a practitioner beyond any suggestion of dereliction of duty in this regard.
Chapter 4 deals with sharing residential accommodation and, while there is an overlap with property law, provides a mine of thought-provoking issues that need to be covered off, as well as providing niche precedents, such as ‘Agreement recording the terms of a loan made by an elderly person towards the cost of constructing a granny annexe’. Where else can such precedents be sourced?
‘Gifting’ is certainly on the agenda of many elderly clients, as, perhaps, they have the best appreciation of their life expectancy and grasp of the wealth required to sustain them until the end of life. This is dealt with in chapter 5. Gifting, like so many areas of elderly client law, can be a minefield for any practitioner and this chapter quickly brings the reader up to speed with the interaction of the issues: undue influence, capacity, money laundering, inheritance tax, capital gains tax, pre-owned assets tax, stamp duty land tax, care funding, double portions and gifts under attorneyship/deputyship. Checklists are provided to help ensure advice is comprehensive and as exhaustive as possible.
An area always in the forefront of the elderly client’s mind is the spectre of the care home, and chapter 6 deals with the contractual aspects in a user-friendly way – issues perhaps more routinely faced by our commercial colleagues.
Chapters 8-10 deal with powers of attorney, without an overview of which no elderly client work would be complete, though arguably they are adequately covered in other resources. The setting out of the lasting power of attorney instruments together with the registration forms certainly seems redundant, as do the Court of Protection forms at the end of chapter 11 on deputyship. Surely to review them online is the only way to be sure one is working from the latest version.
The same certainly cannot be said of chapter 12, ‘Advance decisions’, which seems to be an under-examined area of private client practice.
Chapter 13, ‘Funeral planning’, provides a thought-provoking and objective summary of the issues without which no will file is truly complete. For practitioners reluctant to face this soberest of areas, this chapter may assist in finding the right information and tone for every client.
Chapter 14, ‘Wills’, seems to be more a token than of any real use to practitioners, but there are some novel precedent clauses worth looking at. Chapter 15, ‘Statutory wills’, brings together some useful issues in relation to advising clients without the capacity to make a will for themselves – again an area of practice on which there is not a wealth of material on which to draw.
Chapter 16 on equity release again overlaps with the property lawyer’s role, but does provide useful information for those private client lawyers without property law knowledge or the ready assistance of property law colleagues.
The book concludes with a chapter on carer and care worker services, which overlaps with employment law. It is useful to have an overview, but how many private client lawyers would feel comfortable using the precedent employment agreement for a carer? It seems a step too far but, on the basis that it is included for illustrative purposes, the breadth of the material – together with the invaluable checklists littered throughout – confirms the work as authoritative, comprehensive and well worth the investment.
There is a standard warning on the CD-ROM advising that the work cannot be returned if the seal is broken; I would be willing to bet few seals go unbroken, and justifiably so.
Elderly Clients: A Precedent Manual (4th edition)
By Denzil Lush and Caroline Bielanska
Publisher: Jordans in conjunction with Solicitors for the Elderly
STEP member price: GBP64 (go to the STEP Books page and log in to obtain your discount code)
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