Appointing someone to act on our behalf if we become unable to make or communicate decisions ourselves is vital, not only for our finances but also for your health and care.
A recent high-profile example
Bruce Willis is a household name in the action movie genre, immortalised across our screens in films such as Die Hard, Pulp Fiction and Armageddon. His family have recently announced that he is suffering from frontotemporal dementia, a degenerative neurological disease
These diagnoses are life-changing and create a huge upheaval not only for the person but for their families Just like Mr Willis, nearly 1 million people suffer from some form of dementia in the UK. Many of those people rely on their loved ones to manage their affairs and make decisions on their behalf.
This is particularly important when the person's condition worsens to the point that they're unable to make decisions for themselves. That's why having a lasting power of attorney in place is important while you still have the mental capacity to legally consent to these arrangements.
What is a lasting power of attorney (LPA)?
Having a lasting power of attorney (LPA) in place means that you have taken the necessary steps to ensure your financial affairs and health and well-being are looked after should something unforeseen happen. Created under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, LPAs allow you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf while you're still of sound mind to do so.
Typically, LPAs are split into two categories:
- A Health and Welfare LPA
These are designed to cover such issues as your care (say, in a nursing home) and medical treatment.
- A property and affairs LPA
This kind of LPA is where your appointed person is permitted to make decisions about your property and finances for example managing your bank accounts, paying invoices and even as basic as speaking to the gas company
What can happen if you don't put an LPA in place before you lose mental capacity?
If you lose capacity before you've appointed a power of attorney, you'll no longer be able to decide who makes decisions for you. In these circumstances, a Deputy will need to be appointed by the Court of Protection where a judge will decide who will make decisions on your behalf.
An LPA is not just preferable because you get to decide who is appointed to make decisions for you, but it is also quicker, less costly and a much easier process.
How do I arrange a lasting power of attorney?
You can prepare a Lasting Power of Attorney by choosing your attorney, filling out the required forms and registering the LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian. You should speak to your solicitor so that they can advise you on the best way to prepare your LPA and remove any doubt from a complicated process.
Like the creation of a will, an LPA is an important legal document, one that everyone should consider, that is easy to get wrong. Creating one without the proper knowledge and advice could result in the LPA being unenforceable or not reflective of your wishes. A good solicitor will walk you through everything, giving you peace of mind that your wishes have been accounted for.
The bottom line
A diagnosis like dementia is never an easy situation. It can lead to many challenges for you and your family and will involve many readjustments In one's life.
To lessen the strain, preparing a Lasting Power of Attorney well in advance of any diagnosis, will ensure you have peace of mind where your future financial and physical welfare is concerned.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.