Lasting Power of Attorney and why it is important
Few of us want to think that we might lose our mental capacity as we get older, but it is an important issue to consider and to plan ways to reduce the potential burden on relatives should this happen. As the population ages the likelihood of an older person experiencing dementia increases. Those experiencing dementia over the age of 65 is set to increase by one million by 2025 according to the Alzheimer’s Society so it is important to put in place contingencies in the event that you cannot cope with everyday financial matters or your own care needs.
One of the approaches is to create a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This is a legal tool which will give someone you trust the legal powers to act on your behalf should you lose mental capacity. The important thing is to put this in place whilst you are still well and have mental capacity. To create this after loss of mental capacity involves relatives in long delays and expense in applying to The Court of Protection to get access and take control of assets and finances, for example if a property needs to be sold to cover care costs.
There are two types of LPAs, one covering financial and property matters and the other health and welfare matters. You can chose to make one type or both. You will need to choose an attorney (you can have more than one) who you trust and who can act for you.
Health & Welfare
This will give your attorney the power to make decisions about things like:
- Your daily routine, such as washing, dressing, eating
- Medical care
- Moving into a residential care home
- Life-sustaining treatment
It can only be used when you are unable to make your own decisions.
Property & Financial Matters
This will give your attorney the legal powers to make decisions about money and property for you. It could cover such areas of:
- Managing bank or building society accounts
- Paying bills
- Collecting benefits from a pension
- Selling your home
It can be used as soon as possible with your permission. A solicitor could set up both or a single LPA for you. This might be an expensive option with fees varying between around £400 to £1,000. Or you (the donor) could do this yourself using the Office of Public Guardian website to register for one or both LPAs. The Office of Public Guardian protects people in England & Wales who may not have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
The cost is £85 per LPA. If the donor has a gross income below £12,000 or gets certain benefits there might be a reduced fee or this fee might be waived altogether. The website (link below) takes you through the stages of completing the forms in a very comprehensive way. You can choose one or more attorneys so long as they are over 18, not bankrupt and are willing to take on the responsibility. If you appoint more than one person you must decide if they will make decisions jointly (which means they will have to agree on each decision) or jointly and severally (which means they can act together but can also act on their own). If decisions need to be made quickly it could be important that attorneys are able to contact each other easily. If an attorney lives out of the country or is not easily contactable this might cause problems and delays in making decisions. Once you have made your LPAs you will know that your affairs will be taken care of in a way that you wish, and any potential stresses will be reduced for your relatives at a sensitive time.
For further information visit: https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney
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