What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to choose someone now that you trust to make decisions on your behalf at a time in the future when, either you don’t want to make those decisions or you lack the capacity to make them yourself. The person you choose is called your “Attorney”. You are known as the “Donor”.
There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney:
1. Property and Financial Affairs
It would allow your Attorney to deal with your financial affairs, for example: –
• Sign cheques on your behalf
• Withdraw money from your bank/building society account
• Pay bills • Sell or purchase a house for you
2. Health and Care Decisions
It would allow your Attorney to make decisions on your behalf about, for example: –
• What medical treatment you receive
• How you are cared for, e.g. at home or in residential care
• Whether you receive life sustaining treatment
Why Do I Need a Lasting Power of Attorney?
Your next of kin is not automatically entitled to run your affairs or make decisions for you if you are unable to do so. No one has any right to deal with your assets or make medical decisions unless you have given them prior authority – this includes your spouse or children. If you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place and you lose capacity to deal with your own affairs then it would be necessary for someone to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order.
It can take in the region of 6 months to obtain such a Court Order, which can be difficult for your family if decisions need to be made quickly or if they need access to your finances. Medical assessments have to be submitted to the Court and the person appointed by the Court would then need to submit annual reports. In addition, the person appointed by the Court may not be the person that you would have chosen. Problems can arise if your family are unable to agree on who is the most appropriate person to apply to the Court.
Who Should Have a Lasting Power of Attorney?
Everyone should consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney. It is something that must be set up while you still have mental capacity. Once mental capacity has been lost you cannot sign a Lasting Power of Attorney. A loss of mental capacity isn’t always to do with old age or a condition like dementia. It could be as a result of an accident, an illness or a stroke.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is therefore not something that should be seen as just for the elderly. It is perhaps obvious to assume that an older couple might want to set one up so that their children can take care of them in their old age. But what about a younger couple with children and a business to run, for example? If something happened to the main breadwinner of the family, how would they cope?
Contact the Wills & Probate Team today on 01724 854000 to discuss your requirements.