A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you appoint a trusted person to make decisions on your behalf should you lose the capacity to make them for yourself. A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) must be made whilst you have full mental capacity.
When should you make a Power of Attorney?
Of course, nobody likes to imagine a time when they will not have the capacity to make decisions for themselves. However, we have an ageing population and it is predicted there will be more than a million dementia sufferers by 2025. Of course, it is not just the elderly who require an LPA. In reality, mental and physical incapacity can strike at any age. It could be as a result of a sporting injury, a vehicle or work-related accident, or a degenerative illness.
You can put a Power of Attorney in place at any time, as long as you are 18 or over and are capable of making your own decisions. So, don’t delay; contact us for advice as early as possible to ensure you have all the correct legal documents in place.
Consequences of not having a Power of Attorney in place
If you become mentally incapacitated without an LPA in place, this can cause considerable complications for your loved ones. You will have missed the opportunity to ensure that the person(s) you want are the ones that can manage your affairs.
With no Power of Attorney in place, assets become frozen, including joint assets. Of course, this can cause real issues with the payment of bills or ongoing care. Your family will have to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order in order to gain access to your finances. This can be a time-consuming process and could put additional financial and emotional pressure on your loved ones during what is already a stressful time.
Two types of Lasting Power of Attorney
There are now two types of Power of Attorney and it is sensible to ensure that you have both of them in place.
Property and Financial Affairs for managing day to day finances including collecting benefits or pension, dealing with debts, selling your property etc. This Power of Attorney can be used before you have lost mental capacity, as long as you have given your permission. It could, for example, be used if you become housebound or require a lengthy hospital stay.
Health and Welfare which enables you to choose the person(s) that you would wish to make decisions on your behalf in respect of all your health and welfare needs. It covers issues as your social care and support, housing and NHS treatment. This can include consenting to or refusing life-sustaining treatment, according to your wishes. This Power of Attorney can only come into play at the point you have lost mental capacity.
Choosing who will manage your affairs
First and foremost, you choose someone that you trust. You can appoint more than one person and it is often sensible to do so. Your attorney(s) must be 18 or over and can be a relative, spouse or partner, friend or a professional (eg solicitor). The attorney(s) will have a duty to make decisions that are in your best interests.
Using a Lasting Power of Attorney
As soon as the LPA has been registered and the documentation received, it can then be used at any time you see fit. For example, if you require periods in hospital, you may need your appointed attorney(s) to use the LPA to pay bills during those periods. Or, the document could sit happily dormant for many years. Whatever the situation, it is reassuring to know that all the legal documents are in place for whenever they may be needed.
Cancelling or amending an LPA
You can cancel an LPA at any point by way of a formal revocation. You can then set up a new one.
If your individual attorney is your spouse or civil partner, then a divorce, dissolution or annulment of the marriage or civil partnership, will end the appointment of that person as your chosen attorney – unless it has been expressly stated otherwise in the LPA.
How long does it take?
Once an LPA is sent to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) for registration, it is usually only a month or so before the LPA is registered and it can then be used straight away.
For advice and support on how to make and register a Lasting Power of Attorney contact Alan Burcombe direct on 07932 001979 or call the Wells Burcombe office in St Albans, Hertfordshire on 01727 840900 or West Drayton, London on 01895 449288, or email us via our contact page.