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Rights Available to Spouses

Questions are often asked about the rights people have over the financial affairs of their spouse. For example, if a spouse dies, will the other spouse inherit their estate?

This can only be guaranteed if a spouse makes provision for this in his or her Will. The laws of intestacy would apply if there is no Will and that can adversely affect the rights of a spouse. If the other spouse is unable to deal with his or her personal affairs by losing capacity, the other spouse does not automatically have the authority to make important decisions on behalf of the other spouse in relation to welfare or financial matters. In order to obtain such authority, arrangements should be made for a Power of Attorney to be put in place appointing the other spouse as the Attorney. In the absence of a Power of Attorney, an application can be made to the Sheriff Court to appoint a guardian and obtain necessary powers but this may be a lengthy and expensive process. Consideration should be given to the same matters by those persons who are unmarried and cohabiting. Legal advice should be sought in order to put the necessary paperwork in place at the earliest opportunity.

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