Do you know someone who has dementia, Alzheimer’s or has had a stroke? They may have some other illness or problem that means they need help with their day to day life. Have you ever seen a family struggle to handle someone else’s affairs and come up against confidentiality and data protection, and be able to go no further? Other issues may involve difficulties in paying bills or having to pay expenses out of their own money while they wait to be able to access the accounts of their loved ones. Care decisions may have been made by social workers and doctors instead of by their partner or family. If you do know someone who has experienced any of these issues you will know that the challenges they face in these circumstances are upsetting and make an already difficult time harder.
It is possible to plan ahead so that should the worst happen to you then your family will not have to worry about how they manage to pay any bills or who will be making decisions about your care. The way to do this is by executing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) whilst you are well enough to do so. Under an LPA you are choosing who you would like to manage your affairs and make decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do decide for yourself.
There are two types of LPAs; property and financial affairs and health and welfare. You can choose to do just one of these but to be fully prepared we would recommend that both are put in place.
Your choice of attorney(s) (you can name up to four) is an entirely personal decision but it is crucial that you trust them as they will be making important and sometimes life changing decisions for you. It is especially important if you are unmarried and want your partner to have decision making powers in relation to your health care as they do not have any legal standing as a family member and would not be considered your next of kin. In any event, no person is permitted to deal with assets held in your sole name, should you lose mental capacity, without an order of the Court or an LPA regardless of whether or not they are your next of kin.
You can include guidance or restrictions for your attorneys in the LPA so you can have an element of control over the decisions they make later in your life.
If you are not well enough and have lost mental capacity then an LPA cannot be signed. This means someone will need to apply to the Court of Protection on your behalf and asked to be appointed as your Deputy (another type of attorney) in order to be able to look after and manage your finances. It is a costly and lengthy process. There is no guarantee that the person you would choose is the one that will be appointed, especially if your family cannot agree and the court has to decide. Please note they rarely make Court of Protection appointments for health and welfare, so if you do not have an LPA, those decisions may be made by professionals instead of those who know you best.
The process is fairly straightforward but there are some technicalities involved which makes it important that professional advice is taken in order that the formalities are complied with.
Making an LPA now does not mean it has to be used straightaway and you will not lose control of your assets or your decision making powers by signing it. Instead you are ensuring that you are prepared should your circumstances change so your loved ones will be able to take over straight away.
Making an LPA may seem unnecessary if you are fit and healthy, but things can change unexpectedly and in an instant so the opportunity to prepare an LPA will be lost. Preparing now is the key for you having the peace of mind that in the future you will be well looked after by people of your choosing.
To discuss Lasting Powers of Attorney further, please contact our Private Client Department.