Alzheimer’s UK has predicted that by 2025 more than one million people in the UK will be living with Dementia.  For those that know about, or have directly experienced the impact of this disease, they will have some understanding of how impossible it can become to handle your own affairs; ranging from every day tasks such as paying bills and managing money, to more crucial decisions such as arranging potential Care Needs, or ultimately making decisions on medical treatment.

Because of this many elderly people consider making arrangements to ensure that they have someone they can trust to act on their behalf, should the need arise.  This can be achieved through the drafting of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) documents.

What are Lasting Power of Attorney documents?

There are two LPA documents which can be drafted, one focusing on Property and Financial Affairs, whilst the other is specific to Health and Welfare.  Once completed the documents give another individual, or individuals, the legal authority to look after specific elements of your decision making, dependant on the authority you have previously provided.  The main difference between the documents is that decisions on your Health and Welfare can only be made by your appointed Attorney(s) if you no longer have the capacity to make them, whereas decisions concerning your Property and Finances can be made as soon as the LPA is registered, which provides scope for additional assistance should you wish to seek the support of someone else when managing your finances.

Who can benefit from a Lasting Power of Attorney document?

It is, however, important to note that LPAs are not just for the elderly.  Sudden illness or an accident can leave unexpected and often serious consequences that may require anyone needing the assistance of someone else to help manage their affairs, regardless of their age.

As privacy and security measures are becoming more paramount it is becoming increasingly difficult to discuss another person’s private affairs without express authority, such as an LPA document in place.  If something were to happen that would mean that your loved ones needed to access your personal affairs,   they could find many obstacles in their path during a potentially upsetting and stressful time.

What happens if I do not have Lasting Power of Attorney documents in place?

If an individual does not have a Lasting Power of Attorney document in place, and it becomes necessary for another individual to make decisions on their behalf, then there is an alternative procedure known as Deputyship under the Court of Protection, which ensures that an individual can be appointed to act.

However, applying for a Deputyship under the Court of Protection is both a costly and time-consuming alternative to LPA documents.  The individual who requires assistance has no control over who applies for this role. as before the application is made it will be necessary for a Capacity Assessment to be undertaken to confirm that an individual’s decision-making ability is sufficiently compromised.  This, therefore, means that no support can be given if someone is merely struggling with managing their affairs, as is the case with an LPA.

It is also worth noting that an application for Deputyship under the Court of Protection for Health and Welfare matters can be extremely hard to apply for successfully.  This is due to the Court viewing these decisions as very personal and without the input of the individual in need it would be hard to know whether they would be happy for the applicant to act in these matters.

How can I make Lasting Power of Attorney documents?

In order for Lasting Power of Attorney documents to be drafted you would need to consider who you would want to appoint to act on your behalf, should the need ever arise.  These people should be trustworthy and be willing to act in your best interests if they were ever called upon to do so.  You can appoint up to four Attorneys to act, as well as including Back-Up’s should something happen to your first choice of Attorney.

If there are particular areas of either your Property and Financial Affairs, or your Health and Welfare that you would not want your Attorneys to be able to make decisions about, this can be specified within the documents; although any instructions should be considered carefully so that the potential benefits of the LPAs are not later frustrated.

Can Lasting Power of Attorney documents be revoked?

Lasting Power of Attorney documents can be revoked so long as the individual who has drafted the LPA still has the requisite capacity to have the document revoked.  Additionally, if anyone else believes that an Attorney is abusing their power, reports can be made to the Office of the Public Guardian to ensure that an Attorney’s actions are in the individual’s best interests.

It is also important to note that an LPA cannot be used to alter an individual’s Will.  An individual’s Will is private and cannot be relied upon until an individual passes away.

In essence, a Lasting Power of Attorney is similar to an Insurance Policy.  It may well be that you never need to rely upon the documents, but if the need ever did arise, it would be much better to be in a position where you already have the relevant support in place, rather than having to rectify the situation when your health may already be compromised, making you vulnerable and unsupported at a time when making important decisions may have a life-changing impact on you.

If you have any queries, or if you would simply like to discuss Lasting Power of Attorney documents in greater detail please do not hesitate to contact our office on 02476555400.