It is difficult for us to imagine a situation whereby we will not have complete control of our own affairs. As an aging population we are more alert to the increased numbers of dementia sufferers in society but the brutal reality is that accidents can happen at any time, to anyone of us. As a full service law firm we deal with road traffic accidents, work place accidents and clinical negligence claims on a daily basis and unexpected medical emergencies such as a stroke can strike at any age. We all know that we should have life insurance and write a will, but too few of us know we should also consider something called a Lasting Power of Attorney which can be equally important and we would urge all our clients to consider having as an integral part of their legal planning.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) gives another individual(s) the legal authority to look after specific aspects of your financial affairs or health and welfare should you lose the capacity to do so.
There are two types of LPA:
Property and Financial affairs LPA that gives the attorney authority to make decisions about your financial affairs including buying and selling your property, dealing with your bills, running your bank accounts and investing your money.
Health and Welfare LPA that gives the attorney authority to make decisions about your healthcare and personal welfare. This also includes decisions about where you should live, how you should be treated medically, what you should eat and who you should have contact with.
You can choose anyone you trust as your attorney, provided they are over 18, not bankrupt and they are willing to take on the role, which is a serious responsibility. On creating an LPA you can restrict or specify the types of decisions the attorney can make, or you can allow them to make all decisions on your behalf. Your attorneys may act either only if you lose capacity or in certain circumstances, for Property & Financial LPAs you may want them to assist you sooner.
To protect your interests, an LPA must be signed by a certificate provider – a solicitor or someone else of your choosing – who certifies that you understand the LPA and have not been pressurised into signing it. A LPA must also be registered with the Court before it can be used as an additional safeguard. It is an Attorney’s duty to make all decisions in your best interests and they must follow certain principles set out in the Mental Capacity Act aimed at making sure you are encouraged to make your own decisions where possible.
If you do not have an LPA in place and become mentally incapacitated, relatives will face long delays and significant expense in applying to the Court to get access and take control of your assets and finances. The Courts them supervise the person appointed and have annual reporting and costs requirements.
An LPA is and insurance policy that should the worst happen, you and your family are protected. We would therefore encourage you if you are reading this, or have relatives who may be interested in finding out more about LPAs to contact our specialist solicitors to arrange a free initial appointment to discuss LPAs in more detail.