Plan For The Unexpected With A Lasting Power Of Attorney
People of all ages are becoming increasingly prepared to face up to the possibility that in the future they could become unable to make decisions for themselves due to mental incapacity, whether brought on by a sudden accident, illness or advancing age.
Given the statistics it is worth considering how your relatives would cope should this happen to you. For example, there are around 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and, as you have probably heard in the media, this number is forecast to increase.
One positive way of dealing with things is to create a lasting power of attorney (an LPA) – a legal tool to appoint people you know and trust to look after your property and financial affairs or health and welfare should you become unable to do so yourself.
Sue Jull, an LPA specialist at Boys & Maughan Solicitors in Canterbury explained: “LPAs are like an insurance policy in case you lose your mental capacity or become physically frail. When this happens people can become overwhelmed and find it difficult to deal with all manner of things. Paperwork and bills pile up, for example, and everything can seem out of control.”
People often choose to have just a property and financial LPA but a health and welfare LPA will put your family in a stronger position if social services intervene.
“If social services were to take out what they refer to as a “Best Interest Order” stating that they feel it is in your best interests that you are admitted to a care home, your family can go along to any Best Interest Meetings, but will not be able to participate in any decision making unless they have a health and welfare lasting power of attorney,” said Sue.
Before your chosen attorneys can use the powers, they must, first of all, be registered by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).
LPA’s can be set up relatively cheaply with or without the help of a solicitor, but they are a powerful and important legal document and you may wish to seek advice from a legal adviser with experience of preparing them for peace of mind.
“Setting up an LPA does not mean that it takes immediate effect and you can give your Attorneys instructions to deal with your affairs in a certain way,” says Sue. “For example, you can state that your attorneys can only act for you if you lose your mental capacity. Solicitors can advise you on the instructions that are possible and are permitted by the OPG.
“Some people are also concerned about what safeguards there are. Firstly, you select someone you know or someone you trust, like a solicitor or GP, to be your certificate provider.
“Secondly, you can nominate someone you know to be told about your lasting power of attorney forms. If they have any concerns about your chosen attorneys, they can contact the OPG about their concerns before your forms are registered.”
If your attorneys need to look after your financial affairs your solicitor will send them certified copies of your property and financial affairs form for their use.
“Your attorneys will take or send a copy to your bank, building society, pension provider, or other financial institution with whom you are affiliated,” explains Sue. “They will then be registered on your accounts, pension policy, or other financial assets, and your attorneys will then be able to access and operate them on your behalf.
“If your attorneys need to make health and welfare decisions for you, again, your solicitor will provide them with certified copies of your health and welfare form to be registered with your GP or other health professionals involved in your care.”
Sue Jull is a Private Client Executive and LPA specialist at Boys & Maughan Solicitors which has branches in Canterbury, Broadstairs, Margate, Birchington and Ramsgate.
If you would like advice Sue can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by telephone at the firm’s Canterbury office on 01227 207000 or Broadstairs branch on 01843 868861.