What is a Lasting Power of Attorney and Do I Need One?

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What is a Lasting Power of Attorney and why might I need one?

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK there are an estimated 944,000 people living with dementia in the UK. The cost of dementia was 25 billion pounds in the UK in 2021 and dementia was the leading cause of death in the UK in 2022 (11%) or 74,000 deaths. These statistics show the reality of the prevalence of dementia in the UK. Many of us have someone in our family who has been diagnosed with dementia. It is a very distressing condition for the person and the family because, amongst other things, your loved one can no longer make decisions for themselves. Solicitors will not be able to act without a "court of protection" if a person’s condition has advanced to a point where they are unable to manage their own affairs and sign legal documents. If you have concerns for yourself or a loved one about the management of their affairs in the future then consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney without delay.

If you, or a loved one, are considering your own future and old age, here are the two most important things you can do to ensure your legal affairs are in order for your family and loved ones: make or update your Will and/or set up a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Lasting Powers of Attorney 

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document, which gives someone else the power to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types of LPA. One covers your finances and property and the other covers health, medical and welfare decisions. 

Like a Will, LPAs can only be made if you have the mental capacity to understand and sign the legal document. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult a solicitor with a view to making one  in advance. If you do this, you can have peace of mind that the LPA documents are ready to be used should you need help in the future. If you lose the ability to manage your own affairs and have not made an LPA, the only alternative is for someone to make a Court application which is a costly and time-consuming process at what may already be a stressful time. This may, or may not, be the person you would have chosen to direct your affairs.

LPA for financial decisions

An LPA for financial decisions can be used while you still have mental capacity, or you can state that you only want it to come into force if you lose capacity. This can cover things such as buying and selling property, paying the mortgage, investing money, paying bills, and arranging repairs to your property. You can restrict the types of decisions your attorney can make or let them make all decisions on your behalf.

If you are setting up an LPA for financial decisions, your attorney must keep accounts and make sure their money is kept separate from yours. You can ask for regular details of how much is spent and how much money you have. These details can be sent to your solicitor or a family member if you lose mental capacity. This offers an extra layer of protection.

LPA for health and care decisions

This covers health and care decisions and can only be used once you have lost mental capacity. An attorney can generally make decisions about things such as: where you should live, your medical care, what you should eat, who you should have contact with, and what kind of social activities you should take part in. You can also give special permission for your attorney to make decisions about life-saving treatment.

A Word of Warning

If you are married or in a civil partnership, you may have assumed that your spouse would automatically be able to deal with things like your bank account and pensions, or make decisions about your healthcare, if you lose the ability to do so. This is not the case. Without an LPA in place, they will not have the authority.

What happens next?

If you decide you want to put an LPA in place, your solicitor will have the relevant forms and an information pack from the Office of the Public Guardian. Your solicitor will fill in the form. The form needs to be signed by the certificate provider who is someone who confirms that you understand it and have not been put under any pressure to sign it. The certificate provider will most likely be your solicitor or another professional person such as a doctor or social worker. 

To make a Will or a Lasting Power of Attorney, please contact our experienced team of lawyers on 01492 874774 or 596596 today.