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The Importance of Making Lasting Powers of Attorney

View profile for Emma Harrison
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We all know of someone who has suffered a stroke, heart attack or been in a car accident that changed their life forever. Whilst many people have a Will, not so many have Lasting Powers of Attorney in place.

There is a lot to be said for living in the moment, and future planning is something many people put off.  However, life is full of uncertainties and an unforeseen event can have a sudden and sometimes devastating impact on your ability to manage your own affairs. Whilst a Will gives you the opportunity to make sure your wishes are carried out after your death, Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) can provide you the opportunity to have an influence over your own affairs, both financial and health, whilst you are still alive. On that basis, making LPAs are at least as important as making your Will, but sadly many people overlook this. So why should you make LPAs?

The Growing Impact of Dementia:

Consider if you were to lose your mental capacity due to dementia and have to rely on others to care for you.   According to the Alzheimer’s Society there are currently 900,000 people with dementia in the UK, and projections estimate this number is set to rise to 1.6 million people by 2040.  Dementia doesn’t discriminate by age either, with 70,800 people living with dementia in the UK developing symptoms before the age of 65.  Despite these figures, 59 % of people over the age of 75 in the UK have yet to arrange Powers of Attorney.  

Challenges Without a Lasting Power of Attorney:

If you lose your capacity to manage your own affairs, accessing your funds without a Financial LPA can prove an impossible challenge for family and caregivers.  Without an LPA it may require an application to The Court of Protection, which can be both time-consuming and expensive.  In the meantime, they may be forced to use their own funds to meet your financial outgoings. Having a Financial LPA allows you to nominate someone you trust - a friend, relative or solicitor, to act as your attorney, to make decisions on your behalf, such as paying your bills, should you need assistance.  A Health LPA will allow the people you trust to make decisions about the care and treatment that you receive if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. 

Empowerment Through Lasting Power of Attorney:

LPAs provide you with control over what happens to you and your affairs if you have an accident or illness that means you cannot make your own decisions.  The appointed attorney is bound to act in your best interests, follow any instructions you detail in your LPA and consider any preferences you put in your LPAs.
Once you have a Power of Attorney in place, it does not mean that the attorney will instantly take control, for financial matters, they can do it under your instruction at a time of your choosing, or when you no longer have the mental capacity to do it yourself.  For medical decisions they can only act if you are unable to choose for yourself.

Nomination of Attorneys:

The majority of people who make LPAs tend to make one to deal with their Property and Financial Affairs. Some decide that they would also like a Power of Attorney in place to deal with their Health and Welfare.

You can either have the same people appointed under both types of LPA or choose different people.  Ideally you should nominate two trusted individuals to act on your behalf, allowing for flexibility, ensuring that if one becomes unable to act, the other can continue independently. Whether choosing the same person for both or different individuals for each type of LPA, this arrangement provides can safety net for unforeseen circumstances.

The Application Process:

While applying for a Power of Attorney online is an option, the process can be complex, and it is easy to make an error which could complicate matters in future. Careful thought needs to be given to documenting any wishes or instructions for your attorneys and also how your attorneys will act if the need arises.  Forms must be completed in a strict order and any mistakes can cause the application to be rejected, causing delay and sometimes additional charges The form must be signed by someone you have known for at least 2 years or more who is not a relative, or a professional such as a GP or solicitor and by doing so they are accepting responsibility for confirming you have understood the nature and effect of the document.    We would strongly advise you to consult a private client solicitor to make sure the process is completed correctly and in a timely manner.  

The Role of a Letter of Wishes:

Once LPAs are completed and registered, you should keep them safe and make sure loved ones know where they are should they ever need to use them.  You also have the option to complete a letter of wishes, which although not legally binding, will give your attorneys and loved ones details of your preferences in particular, with regard to medical interventions, preferred treatments, as well as end of life care.

The important thing to remember is that Powers of Attorney do not mean that you are instantly handing control of everything to your attorneys. You will continue to control your finances and medical needs up to the point that you are no longer able to do so.  Without a valid LPA, the Court of Protection may need to be involved for decision making, which will add extra time and costs, may not align with your preferences and could lead to disputes occurring.

Whilst life expectancy is increasing, you may think you are too young to plan ahead, but the earlier you have things in place, the more you can enjoy life knowing that, should the worst happen, you and your affairs will be taken care of. 

Take charge of your future today and don't wait until the unexpected happens.

Plan ahead with Lasting Powers of Attorney and take control of your future to ensure that your wishes are honoured. Consult our experienced team for personalised advice and secure your financial and health decisions. Take advice from our experienced private client team, contact or call 01827 317081.

See also: 

Lasting Powers fo Attorney

Business Power of Attorney

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.