When health problems mean a Power of Attorney could be useful
As we age, the likelihood of becoming ill increases. Changes can take place in our bodies and brains that we simply can’t prevent regardless of how well we eat and how fit we keep ourselves.
Our ability to make decisions properly for ourselves can be affected by stroke, dementia, confusion, alcohol misuse - or even a brain injury due to an accident or fall.
Whatever the cause, sadly every year people will be diagnosed with lack of capacity. This means you are unable to understand information given about a particular decision; or retain information long enough to make a proper decision; or weigh up and consider information properly to make a decision or perhaps be unable to communicate any decision.
It is easy to think “it will never happen to me”; but every year it happens to some people. Often, these people have written wills but have not made a power of attorney. This means that if you become incapacitated, an application will have to be made to the Court of Protection for someone to be appointed your deputy. This process can take months and is costly – and in the meantime there is no one looking after your affairs. Plus of course you have no say in the person who is appointed.
A Legal Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document whereby a Donor (e.g. yourself) entrusts a personally selected Attorney or Attorneys to deal with certain personal matters once they themselves lack the capacity to do so.
According to Rob Martins at Cheesmans Accountants, an LPA is essential if you want peace of mind. It enables your Attorneys to make decisions about your life and finances should you become unfit to do so yourself.
Rob says an LPA can quickly appoint the person of your choice to deal with your affairs on your behalf. In the LPA application, you can give guidance to your Attorneys so they will know exactly how you wish your affairs to be treated. It is a document that can protect you, your assets and your family - and therefore it should not be ignored.
There are two different types of LPAs which are:
- Health and Welfare (allowing decisions on treatment, care, medication, where you live etc); and
- Property and Financial Affairs (allowing an Attorney to make decisions about paying bills, dealing with the Bank, collecting benefits, selling your house, etc)
From a legal perspective, LPAs only cover people in England and Wales and therefore may not be enforceable in any other country (including Scotland and Northern Ireland).
Many people are of the opinion that they do not need to complete an LPA if they are young, or of sound mind, etc. However one cannot be certain of every eventuality and so, should the unexpected happen and you are incapacitated for any length of time, someone will need to be able to pay your bills and even make decisions in relation to your healthcare. Therefore, regardless of your age or your current state of health it is worth completing and registering an LPA in preparation for any eventuality.
You can find the relevant forms at www.justice.gov.uk . Once you have completed them they need to be submitted to the Office of the Public Guardian. Once submitted, they can be superseded at any time, prior to death, by registering new forms with the Office.
For each LPA at least two forms are required to be completed. For example Cheesmans has helped many clients prepare the necessary forms and provide detailed instructions for signature by the Donor, Attorney(s) and the Certificate Provider, where applicable, who confirms that the donor has the mental capacity to register an LPA. Following the signing of all appropriate forms they are submitted to the Office of the Public Guardian on the Donor’s behalf and the registration process is managed in order to make the procedure as simple and hassle free as possible.
More information is available from:
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