Did you know that statistics show that only 15% of people aged over 75 have made a Lasting Power of Attorney? This is quite a surprising statistic – considering a further statistic shows that 10,000 Lasting Powers of Attorney are registered with the Court each week. Unfortunately many people do not know the documents exist – let alone what they are and how to go about putting them in place.
In essence, Lasting Powers of Attorney give legal authority to Attorneys (people of your choice) to deal with matters for you – to sign documents on your behalf, sell a property if necessary and manage your finances – and the health and welfare document gives authority to be involved in making decisions for your benefit and welfare. These documents do not just apply to people who are aged or have dementia – they can equally apply to younger people who have accidents rendering them unable to deal with such matters.
There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) – one is a Property and Financial Affairs LPA and this relates to the practical matters such as accessing money or selling property – the other is a Health and Welfare LPA and relates to personal welfare and medical matters. It is most important that such documents are drawn up whilst you are mentally fit and healthy because you cannot draw them up once you have lost mental capacity. This can leave families (and often businesses) with all sorts of practical problems in dealing with a person’s affairs. It can also be a very expensive and lengthy process to go through to be able to obtain authority to deal with someone’s affairs after the onset of mental incapacity if the relevant documents are not in place. An LPA cannot be used until it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian which is part of the Court of Protection.
Although at first glance the documents might appear to be fairly straightforward, the advice behind them can be quite complex. There are many issues to take into account before drawing up LPAs and it is always recommended that legal advice is sought first as everyone has different considerations to address. For example, the structure of your family – who is best placed to be appointed as an Attorney and is willing and capable of dealing with your affairs, whether financial or of a welfare nature. Many people, although happy to help in other ways, simply do not want the responsibility of such a task which can be onerous in some cases. Another consideration is that of potential fraud – you must be as sure as you can be that those you appoint to deal with your affairs will do so honestly – to avoid the risk of abuse.
Lasting Powers of Attorney can (and perhaps should) be drawn up by people at any age – many people take the opportunity of doing this when making a new Will (or indeed their first Will) as it is often easier to tackle both topics at the same time.
As a specialist niche practice dealing with all such Private Client matters, we see both sides of the coin – the documents that work well and those that can cause problems for families – and our experts can advise on the pitfalls to avoid and what is best in specific circumstances. For advice and assistance in all such matters, please call us and arrange an appointment – we offer a free half hour initial consultation.