If you’re faced with a deteriorating health condition you may be scared about what the future holds. If you lose your mental capacity, because of dementia, a stroke, accident, brain injury or other serious health condition, what will happen when you are no longer physically or mentally able to make decisions for yourself?
This is where a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) may provide the answer. Put simply, an LPA is a document recognised by law that gives another person the ‘power’ to make decisions on your behalf. It’s a useful advance care planning tool that allows you to put future provisions in place for when they are needed.
LPAs are there to give you peace of mind, pure and simple. Wouldn’t it take the weight off your shoulders to know that someone close to you, who has your trust, can make decisions that are in your best interests, should you no longer be able to do so yourself? Without an LPA in place, important decisions affecting your life could be made by professionals, strangers or people you just don’t have faith in.
For your nearest and dearest, having a valid LPA is equally reassuring. It’s an insurance policy for the future which eliminates the lengthy process, expense and stress of obtaining a similar power through the courts once your mental capacity has gone. It’s worth stressing that LPAs can only be set up while your mental capacity is intact. Once it’s gone, it’s too late.
Finally, making an LPA may prove the perfect opportunity to start an important conversation with those close to you about your future wishes. Long-term illness and death are highly emotive topics that most families find difficult to talk about. Perhaps now would also be a good time to make your Will?
Who can be an attorney?
Anyone of sane mind over the age of 18 can make an LPA; the attorney(s) must also be over 18 years old. You should choose a person who you trust fully, who is reliable and who has the right skills for the role. This could be a close family member or friend, but a professional such as an accountant or solicitor would also be suitable. You can appoint more than one attorney if you so wish, and they may act together or individually.
There are two separate Lasting Powers of Attorney:
The Property & Affairs LPA covers finances and your property. The attorney(s) will be able to make legally binding decisions regarding your home (including the sale of it), paying bills and managing your finances on your behalf. S/he does not have to wait until you are mentally incapacitated before s/he is allowed to act.
The Health & Welfare LPA relates to decisions about your health and welfare. This includes your day-to-day care and where you live, as well as the power to decide on life-sustaining treatments and DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders. This type of LPA can only be invoked in the event of loss of mental capacity, not before.
Making and registering an LPA is a relatively straightforward process; you can do it online here or via the traditional paper route. Once you have submitted it, it typically takes around 10-12 weeks for the document(s) to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) so do make sure you leave plenty of time. A Lasting Power of Attorney will only be valid once its registration has been confirmed.
If you’re uncertain whether a Lasting Power of Attorney is the right thing for your circumstances, or you wish to find out more about the process of making one, you should speak to a reputable private client lawyer.
Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer learning the sector by working together with companies such as Chichester-based law firm George Ide LLP, who were consulted over the information contained in this piece.