Recently we've received an increasing number of queries about making a Will and setting up a Trust when one or more members of the family have a diagnosis of bipolar. 

Image of Will papers and pen

Photo by Andrew Cahill

Will Planning is important for all individuals and families as a properly prepared Will ensures your wishes are carried out, your assets pass to those you wish to benefit and any resultant tax is minimised.

If your family is affected by bipolar, it is arguably more important to ensure that everything is in order. Many of the telephone calls and emails we receive seek advice for families where a loved one has a tendency for excessive spending when manic or ask about the impact of a Will on a loved one’s allowances/benefits (the rules are different for each type of benefit but in some cases capital exceeding £6,000 may impact on the amount a Claimant could receive).

The best way to deal with both these issues is to place money for an individual into a Trust in your Will. You appoint Trustees who will weigh up all the relevant factors and consider whether to release money to the beneficiary. If you are providing financial support already this effectively gives someone else this role.
One of the major decisions you will need to make is who will act as the Trustees.

The options are:

Family members or friends

This option has limited cost and allows you to select someone or a small group of individuals who understand your wishes, the challenges of the illness and who may also have a good relationship with the beneficiary.

You will, of course, need to bear in mind the age of the Trustee (for example if Trustees are the same age as you it may be that they will be unable to help when the time comes).

If you choose a sibling or family members the additional burden may make it difficult for them to take on this role. If you are thinking of nominating a family member of family friend please talk through everything before the nomination.

Professional Trustees

This option takes the emotion out of being a Trustee but may provide someone who is too distant from the beneficiary. There will also be a cost which could be unacceptable.
If you do choose a professional Trustee you should ask what understanding and/or experience they have of beneficiaries with bipolar disorder and always clarify their charges.

Although making sure you have suitable arrangements for the beneficiary with bipolar may be a key priority, there are other matters you should think about when making a Will, including who will take care of practical arrangements like clearing the house and organising your funeral. There is also the often emotionally charged area of who will receive particular items of furniture of jewellery. A well-written Will can deal with these matters and that makes things smoother for families after you have died.

When you are discussing your Will it may also be advisable to consider whether some fort of lifetime provision for your relative with bipolar would be sensible which would enable you to have an idea of how a Trust works before your death. Similarly you may also wish to consider preparing a Lasting Power of Attorney to appoint someone to act on your behalf should you be unable to do so during your lifetime.

Many individuals put off preparing a Will because they find the idea of thinking about the matter very difficult. However, if you have a beneficiary who had bipolar or indeed suffers from about severe illness, failing to put in place suitable arrangements is likely to make matters far worse. If sensitively done, putting everything in order now and choosing who will assist you, can provide significant peace of mind.

When thinking about planning or writing a Will, setting up a Trust or indeed a Power of Attorney, you should seek legal advice.

We would like to thank Robert Smeath of Clarke Willmott Solicitors for providing the legal information included in this article.

Robert Smeath, Clarke Willmott,

Find out more information about giving a Gift in your Will