Swindon Power of Attorney Solicitor Megan Miller explains why it is important to have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
An LPA is a legal document which allows a person (or donor) to choose one or more individuals (attorneys) to handle their affairs in the event that they are no longer able to do so themselves, usually because they lose mental capacity. Attorneys are most often trusted family members or friends, but people can also select a legal professional as their attorney. As explained below, there are two types of LPA:
- Property and Financial Affairs
- Health and Welfare Decisions
Property and Financial Affairs
The first and most common type of LPA is for Property and Financial Affairs. With this in place, attorneys have the authority to look after the donor’s bank accounts, pay their bills and even sell their house if necessary.
Do I need one?
No one knows what is around the corner. A Lasting Power of Attorney is like an insurance policy. You hope you never have to use it, but, if you do, you’ll be so grateful that you have it. You may find it surprising, but if somebody loses mental capacity and they do not have an LPA in place, no one, not even a spouse, has the authority to deal with their finances on their behalf.
In the absence of an LPA, it is necessary for somebody – a family member, friend, solicitor or local authority – to apply to the court to be appointed a ‘Deputy’. A Deputy is a person granted authority by the court to exercise control over somebody else’s property and financial affairs. The process of applying for deputyship can be complicated, expensive and time consuming and this can be avoided by having an LPA in place.
Health and Welfare Decisions
The second type of LPA is for health and welfare decisions. This covers things like choices around care plans, medical treatment and end of life wishes.
Do I need one?
Usually, family members and doctors or social services are able to come to an agreement about what is in someone’s best interests. However, if there is disagreement, an LPA for Health and Welfare decisions can be extremely helpful to your family. By having this in place, the doctors must adhere to the attorney’s instructions, as if they were directly from the donor. Family members usually have a much better understanding than the doctors of what the donor would have wanted in any particular situation and therefore may be better suited to make these important decisions, albeit with guidance from the medical professionals.
When should I make an LPA?
An LPA must be put in place while a person has the mental capacity to do so. It is therefore important to plan ahead. The sooner an LPA is made, the better, so that whoever you choose to manage your affairs can retain control, should you lose capacity and need assistance in the future.
See also Megan Phillips’ related article “What happens if I lose mental capacity and haven’t made a Lasting Power of Attorney?”