A few years ago Alzheimers Research UK released a short video-come-Christmas advert called ‘Santa Forgot Christmas’. Narrated by Stephen Fry, it tells the heart-breaking story of an ageing Santa Claus who forgot all about Christmas and his job of delivering presents. It’s unquestionably the saddest Christmas advert we’ve ever seen, made even more so by the fact that it happens every year. This advert has done wonderful things to raise awareness of these debilitating conditions, but for us, it raised an important question. Had Santa got his affairs in order, so that Mrs Claus could help him as he struggled on? Or had he, like so many who suffer from these awful diseases, left it too late to do anything?
When Santa starts to lose his mental faculties, it could cause all sorts of problems for him, Mrs Claus and all the elves. And just one of those is money. Let’s assume for a second that Mr and Mrs Claus have a bank account each, with their money split equally between the two, and a joint savings account that they each contribute to. Normally this arrangement works perfectly well, but if Mr Claus is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it could cause all sorts of problems. Without a financial lasting power of attorney in place, Mrs Claus can only access her own money (and not even that in the joint account) which might not be enough on its own to cover their joint expenses – like the mortgage on their home in Lapland or the bills that are mounting for Santa’s care. Instead, a Deputy appointed by the Lapland court would be put in charge of managing Santa’s finances. It wouldn’t matter how many times Santa said he trusted Mrs Claus and that he wanted her to have the money – his diagnosis makes him mentally incapable of making that decision in the eyes of the law. But if Santa had created a Lasting Power of Attorney that gave Mrs Claus permission to manage his assets, it wouldn’t be a problem.
When Santa starts to become ill, there are all sorts of things that start to happen. One of those relates to his medical health and welfare and covers everything from what courses of treatment are taken, to where he will stay and if there is a point at which is it kinder to let him go instead of clinging on. Mrs Claus and Santa have had many conversations about this kind of thing over the years, so she is sure she knows exactly what he would want – mainly that he wants to stay at home for as long as he can while being treated for his illness. But while they might have talked about it so that they each know what the other would prefer, that doesn’t count for a lot in the eyes of the law. So when Santa’s condition starts to worsen, doctors and courts are left to decide how he should be treated. And when they choose to keep him in hospital for long periods, Mrs Claus can do nothing but object and complain. As his disease degenerates to the point where he no longer recognises her, Mrs Claus knows that Santa doesn’t want to live that way. Mrs Claus has to sit and watch as the man she loves lives on in a way he would never have wanted, powerless. But if they had simply written the results of their conversations down in the form of a medical LPA, Mrs Claus would have been able to have a say in how he was treated without challenge.
After Death Complications
By this point, if Santa hadn’t written a will already, he wouldn’t be able to do so now. Because he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the law doesn’t recognise his mental faculties, and any will he does create would be easily challenged. If it had been caught very early he might have had a chance at getting one written up, but at such an advanced stage, Santa has missed the boat. This means that when he dies, he has no control over where his assets will go. He can’t leave anything to his workshop of elves as a thank you, can’t leave all that he owns to Mrs to help her get by, or put anything into trust for his children. Instead, everything he had would be tallied and distributed according to the rules in Lapland’s courts.
All of these issues could have easily been avoided if Santa had spent a little time putting together a lasting power of attorney and a will. But because he was so busy all the time making toys for the children, and he didn’t think he would ever succumb to dementia or Alzheimer’s, he hadn’t got around to it. Sadly, it’s not just Santa in this boat. Alzheimers and dementia affect 1 in 14 people during their lifetime, and once it does hit, it becomes tricky to implement any legal changes and documentation. So the time to think about wills and powers of attorney isn’t when things start to go wrong, but when you and your family are healthy. So if you know someone who hasn’t sorted their will or LPA’s, please put them in touch with us, and let us help them avoid becoming like Santa when we forgot Christmas.