Power of Attorney

Explaining Lasting Powers of Attorney

Have you ever considered what would happen if you became incapable of making decisions for yourself?

No one likes to think about losing the ability to manage their own affairs including handling a bank account, claiming benefits, looking after their tax affairs or transacting a house sale.

Even a joint building society or bank account may be frozen if one of the account holders lack mental capacity and there is no Lasting Power of Attorney in place.

For peace of mind you can made a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPAs) to nominate someone you trust now to make important decisions on your behalf in the future. Often, LPAs are left too late and you cannot make one if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. In those circumstances, it is often necessary for the Court of Protection to appoint a Receiver to manage your affairs all of which is potentially costly.

There are two types of LPAs:

  • Property and Financial Affairs
  • Health and Welfare

You can choose to make one type of Lasting Power of Attorney or both.

Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney

This lets you choose one person or more to make decisions about money and property for you, e.g.

  • Paying bills
  • Collecting benefits
  • Managing your bank account
  • Selling your home – if your illness means that you have to go into nursing care on a long-term basis, then the sale of your home may be inevitable to pay for some or part of those nursing home fees and often this needs to be done with some speed.
  • Dealing with your home if you have to move into a care home. Your Attorney can decide whether, if the sale of the home may not be necessary, it will be possible to rent out your property to cover the cost of your care. Your Attorney would be able to enter into negotiations and legal documents to enable them to do this.
  • Equity release on your property – equity release is a highly controversial area. You may wish to exclude your Attorneys from having power to obtain equity release on your property. However, this may be a sensible proposition if you have to go into a care home, but your house does not necessarily have to be sold in order to pay your fees.

You can appoint someone to look after your property and affairs at any time.

Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney

This allows you to choose one person or more to make decisions about things like:-

  • Your daily routine
  • Medical care
  • Moving into a care home
  • Refusing life-sustaining treatment

This type of LPA can only be used once someone is unable to make their own decisions.

Each Lasting Power of Attorney can be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian and there are a number of important safeguards built into the system to make sure that your Attorney will always act in your best interest.

If you lose mental capacity at some point – for whatever reason – if you haven’t completed a LPA, other people may need to apply to the Court of Protection to be able to make any decisions on your behalf. This can be costly, and can be demanding and stressful for your relatives, friends and carers.

A registered Health and welfare LPA lets the people you choose make decisions about you.

If you would like to instruct us then please telephone Angela Beck and she will make an appointment to come and see you to start completing the necessary documents.

How we helped one Client

When my elderly Uncle died in 2013 my Aunt (then aged 91) struggled to cope with the many decisions that had to be taken, not least to do with sorting out their finances. As they were childless and her sisters were both elderly it was left to the nieces and nephews to help her. As I lived the closest I was happy to act as the main contact and provide support, however being able to do this efficiently was often hindered by my not being a direct relative.

I was therefore very grateful for the sound advice and help that I received from Angela. I had engaged her as my Aunt’s solicitor and it was at one of her meetings with my Aunt that a discussion about the benefits of having identified someone with Lasting Power of Attorney (POA)was raised. My Aunt recognised that this would be of particular benefit to her as she had no direct relatives to help her and asked me to assume this role.

We agreed to establish a POA for both her health and care needs and for her financial affairs. Although establishing POA requires a lot of paperwork and signatures the whole process was made easy by having Angela to advise and sort out the practicalities of getting the paperwork in order. I was particularly appreciative of her being able to come to my Aunt’s home and her patience in explaining things.

For the last 18 months I haven’t had to invoke the POA but my Aunt was taken ill at Christmas and there was a rapid deterioration in her mental capacity meaning that she was incapable of comprehending what was happening, caring for herself or living independently. Over the Christmas and New Year period I had to make a range of hard decisions in my Aunt’s best interests, ranging from medical and care needs to the options for her future living arrangements. Whilst this was stressful it would have been made much harder and more complicated had POA not been in place. My Aunt is now settled in a very good care home and is thriving physically if not mentally. She will not return to her family home and I am now in the process of selling her property. Having POA has enabled me to undertake this as quickly as if I were selling a property in my own name and once again I am thankful that we acted on Angela’s advice two years ago.

I can only urge anyone who has elderly (or not so elderly) relatives to consider having the conversation about the benefits of POA. It doesn’t mean that you take over someone’s life but if the need arises it makes it a whole lot easier to take decisions that do impact on the quality of their lives.

Louise Dunn