Dementia and farming – where to get support

14 February 2024

A man standing in a field looking at a sunset

Dealing with dementia can be a lonely and overwhelming prospect for those living and working in rural communities. NFU Legal Assistance Scheme adviser Karl Lawrence outlines how the NFU can support you and your family.

No-one wants to think about their own mortality or the prospect of suffering from dementia, or any other illness or accident, but the best way to deal with these issues is to face them head on, before problems arise.

Putting plans in place can give you some peace of mind and ensure you avoid having to go through complex legal processes later down the line.

Too often, LAS only receives a request for support after the effects of dementia or other issues have begun to take their toll, resulting in anguish for the family and the need to go through various costly, stressful and complex legal processes to set things right.

Members are urged to contact CallFirst on 0370 8458458, who can refer you on to the NFU’s Legal Panel Firms to assist you in putting your affairs in order. 

Find out how the process works.

Instead, if you act early enough, legal help can be obtained to put your farming affairs in order in case you or your family member cannot continue to run the farming business.

How the NFU can help you

The preparation of a will and a Power of Attorney provides a farming family with dual protection to ensure that the business can continue to trade, and support those who are dependant upon it, during someone’s lifetime and beyond.”

AgriAdvisor Partner, Awel Mai Hughes

The NFU’s Legal Health Check service (for wills, Powers of Attorney, land registration, succession planning) and Contract Checking service (for partnership deeds, contracts etc) are both available for NFU members, via the Legal Panel Firms, and LAS subscribers can receive financial support towards these services.

The NFU Legal Panel is made up of 16 legal firms located throughout England and Wales offering NFU Farmer & Grower members local support and 12.5% discount off hourly rates directly relating to their farming or growing business.

The importance of powers of attorney

It is always best to put in place your wishes before any illness strikes, and so members are strongly urged to seek advice from the NFU’s panel firms and make arrangements early, by considering granting Powers of Attorney (both 1-Financial and 2-Health and Welfare) to those you choose to act on your behalf if you become incapable during your lifetime.

“The preparation of a will and a power of attorney provides a farming family with dual protection to ensure that the business can continue to trade, and support those who are dependant upon it, during someone’s lifetime and beyond,” says AgriAdvisor partner Awel Mai Hughes.

Legal panel firm AgriAdvisor are experts in rural law covering the North and mid-Wales region for NFU members.

“A Power of Attorney provides legal authority for someone to manage your property and financial affairs at a point in the future when you may no longer be able to manage those assets yourself,” Awel advises.

“No one likes to consider themselves in a vulnerable position or mentally incapable in the future but ensuring that those individuals that you trust implicitly are best placed to manage the farm and run the business on your behalf will alleviate the risk of matters becoming legally complex and emotionally stressful for your loved ones.

“Every business partner should have an appointed Attorney who can swiftly step in and ensure the continuity of the business should an accident or illness ensue.”

Power of Attorney doesn’t have to be used right away, but when needed, (with legal checks and balances in place to avoid abuse).

Without a valid Power of Attorney, your relatives would need to apply to the Court of Protection for permission to run your affairs on your behalf which is significantly more restrictive, expensive, stressful, and more cumbersome than having a Power of Attorney in place.

What happens if there’s no will?

Awel also says the importance of a will “cannot be underestimated” adding that they are “not just for the elderly”.

“A will can be as simple or robust as your individual circumstances dictate,” says Awel.

“Succession planning is a process as opposed to a one-off event and often requires both a holistic and pragmatic review of your personal and business assets, your aims and objectives for the future and what resources you will need in place to achieve them.

“Communicating your aims and objectives openly is not always easy but your local NFU Legal Panel Solicitors will have the legal knowledge and agricultural expertise to ensure that, when you eventually pass the baton to the next custodian, your family, farm and business will be in the best possible position to succeed.

“To quote C.S. Lewis: ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending’.”

Sadly, LAS only hear of some cases once the farmer has passed away, and either they have not left a will (known as dying ‘Intestate’) or the will that has been left is being contested, very often by non-farming relatives who feel they should benefit from the farm after your passing, often to the detriment of those left to carry out the farming or growing business.

These cases can cost many thousands of pounds to resolve, and often the farm has to be sold or divided up into smaller lots which are unsustainable for future farming, so don’t leave it open to chance.

Making a valid will in good time when you are fully mentally capable (in legal terms) is the only way to have a sure say in what happens to the farm after your passing.

A well drafted will, with accompanying detail of why the farm has been left to the nominated beneficiary is a good starting point to deter or deal with issues before they become complex and costly court cases against the estate.

Not only can the NFU’s Legal Panel Firms assist you with these documents, (sometimes working with other professionals such as your accountants, land agents etc), but if you are an LAS subscriber, you can also benefit from financial support under both the Legal Health Check and Contract Checking services (exclusive to work carried out by the Panel Firms) for up to £1,000 towards four pieces of work identified by the Panel Firms for each service (i.e. potential of up to £2,000 if you need 8 qualifying pieces of work completed).

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