Published: 13 January 2016
We are all aware of the benefits of drawing up a will so that you can make provisions for the winding up of your affairs after death, but too few people understand the benefits of having a Lasting Power of Attorney.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enables you to give legal authority to a person or a number of people to act on your behalf in handling your property and financial affairs and /or your health and welfare decisions if you lose the mental capacity to do so.
The Alzheimer's Society predicts that by 2025, over 1 million people will suffer from dementia in the UK, with one in five people over the age of 85 already suffering from it. If you do lose your mental capacity, your property and financial affairs become almost impossible to manage and you cannot continue to manage your health and welfare decisions - which is why it is so important to have an LPA in place. Traditionally, LPAs are associated with the elderly, however this is an inaccurate assumption, as younger people can also be affected by an accident or illness which results in an unexpected loss or impairment of mental or physical capacity.
If you do become mentally incapacitated and you don't have an LPA in place, your friends and family would face considerable expense, long delays and other complications in having to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order, to enable them to access and take control of your property and financial affairs. They may also encounter difficulties and delays in being able to make medical and welfare decisions on your behalf.
It is important to understand that you cannot make an LPA if you lack the mental capacity to do so; it is not therefore something that you can continue to put off. It is understandable to feel concerned that discussing an LPA amounts to an admission that you are starting to lose your ability to make decisions for yourself, however this is simply not true; it is instead essential that you make sensible and considered arrangements for your future by choosing someone you trust and putting them in a position to act on your behalf, should they need to. It is also quite common to have an LPA drawn up at the same time as you make a will; although the two documents are independent of each other and cater for different situations, it makes sense to take the necessary steps to put your various property and financial affairs in order, to plan and prepare for the future and then be able to get on with enjoying your life, safe in the knowledge that you have made appropriate arrangements for each future eventuality.
Introduced in October 2007, LPAs were created to be more flexible than the previous document, the Enduring Power of Attorney. LPAs are available in two forms, a Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney and a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney.
The Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney allows your attorney(s) to make decisions regarding the buying and selling of property, the investment of your money, the paying in and withdrawal of money from your accounts, as well as managing your bills and income and direct debits/standing orders.
The Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney allows your attorney(s) to make decisions about where you will live, the type of care you receive and where you receive it and whether or not any life sustaining medical treatment should be continued.
One of the main differences between the two types of LPA is that Property and Financial Affairs LPA can be used while you still have mental capacity, whereas the Health and Welfare LPA can only be used once you no longer have the capacity to make decisions for yourself.
At K J Smith Solicitors, our private client team can assist you in drawing up and registering either or both types of Lasting Power of Attorney and can help you think and talk through any concerns or questions you may have. As members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and Solicitors for the Elderly, we are especially and specifically qualified to advise on a range of private client matters including Wills, Probate, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Deputyship Applications.
For more information or to arrange a free initial 15 minute phone consultation with a member of our team, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford).
This article was written by David Roper.