14 March 2014
Empower your family today… and avoid potential problems tomorrow
Although no-one likes to think about it, there may come a time when you are no longer able to make decisions on your own. For a variety of reasons, you may need help with some of the day-to-day things, for example, paying bills or medical care; and also with the bigger decisions, such as selling your home.
Planning ahead for such eventualities is important, because doing so now can make a big difference to you and your family in the future. Making a lasting power of attorney (LPA) while you are still in good health allows you to choose one or more people to make decisions on your behalf. They can then assist you, or take control if necessary, with things that need to be done.
Craig Williams, partner at Gerrards Cross law firm B P Collins, says: “If someone becomes incapacitated through illness or accident, it will clearly be a very stressful time for their nearest and dearest.
“Taking out an LPA means decisions can be taken quickly, and in their best interests. We would encourage families to think about it sooner rather than later, because it is something you can only apply for while you have the mental capacity to do so.”
Craig recognises that one of the most difficult decisions can be choosing the person (or persons – usually no more than two) to appoint.
“As the number of second and third marriages rises, the problem of who has a say in the care of elderly parents is becoming increasingly common, which is another good reason to plan ahead and have an open family discussion,” he said.
“Who takes on the role will be influenced by issues such as location, ability and willingness to act and, if they have the support of their siblings, then so much the better. An alternative is to appoint a completely independent person, such as a solicitor, to manage the process.”
An LPA must be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian. If you don’t have one in place and become unable to make your own decisions, then an application will need to be made to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy to act on your behalf.
The Court of Protection process can take up to six months to complete, even in straightforward circumstances where there is no dispute between family members. If a dispute is raised this can be much longer. In addition, costs are much higher when making an application to the Court in comparison with planning ahead and signing an LPA.
There are two types of LPA and you can choose one type or both:
- the health and welfare LPA focuses on issues such as your daily routine, what you wear and what you eat; your medical care; or decisions around moving into a care home; and can also be used to decide if you should refuse life-sustaining treatment. It can only be used when you’re unable to make your own decisions
- the property and financial affairs LPA concerns decisions about your money and your property, allowing someone to pay bills and collect benefits on your behalf, and also to sell your home. You can appoint someone to look after your property and financial affairs at any time
"The most sensible course of action is clear," concludes Craig. "Everyone should consider signing a lasting power of attorney if they have not already done so."
If you would like to speak in confidence to a solicitor at B P Collins about arranging an LPA, please call 01753 279030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org