Who will make decisions for you when the time comes?
Think of having a valid Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) as being like having a home insurance policy in place. You hope you’ll never need to use it, but the fact that it is there in advance and ready to use should a fateful day come, is both comforting and reassuring. The only difference is, unlike a home insurance policy, you only pay for your LPA once!
In an age when the average life expectancy of someone born in the UK is at its highest ever, coming in at just over 81 years, it is a sad fact that more and more of us can expect to suffer from some form of physical or mental incapacity associated with growing old.
With Alzheimer’ Research UK estimating that around 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, and forecasting this to rise by 40% in the next 12 years, the likelihood is that a significant number of sufferers are going to need help with their Financial and Welfare needs.
What are the risks of not having a Lasting Power of Attorney?
The media is full of examples of where a failure to have pre-existing LPAs in place have reeked emotional and financial havoc on families.
The most recent case is that of a 97-year-old mother and grandmother living in a nursing home in East Yorkshire and under the protective care of the local authority.
Frustrated with a lack of visiting access and a belief that the care home was failing to provide a good enough level of care for her mother, Ylenia Angeli her daughter, together with ex Coronation Street star Leandra Ashton, her granddaughter, decided to remove her from the care facility she lived in, to take her home and care for her themselves.
Many people are surprised to learn that without having a valid Lasting Power of Attorney in place, regardless of how closely related they are to a person needing care and support, they have no legal rights or say over what happens to the sufferer. This includes spouses, partners and children which means that instead that power resides with the local authority or another official body appointed by the Court of Protection.
The outcome in this particular case is both shocking and devastating for everyone involved. The police were called and arrested Ylenia for abducting her own mother, who was subsequently returned by the police to her care home and quarantined in isolation!
How would an LPA have helped?
Fortunately, this is a rare case and from the media interviews Ylenia gave subsequently to her arrest, there was already a significant communication breakdown between the family and the care home team.
However, more and more families are finding that, through the difficult period of the COVID crisis and successive lockdowns, without the support of a Lasting Power of Attorney being in place, they are having less and less control over what is happening to their loved ones.
Nobody is saying what the family did here was the morally right or wrong thing to do, and yes, it is widely recognised that particularly those who are suffering from a dementia type illness, benefit from routine and consistency as key elements of their long-term care. Whilst stress and disruption are certainly not good for them!
It was a natural emotional reaction born out of the frustration of not being listened to by those who had been appointed to make the decisions about their loved one’s care.
Had an LPA been in place, then it would be the appointed Attorneys who would have been empowered to make the decisions about the patients care needs, taking expert advice to help them make the best choices, but keeping control and always respecting the wishes of the person who intrusted them to act on their behalf.
What is an LPA?
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is currently one of the most important documents you could ever create as it is the only way to ensure your health and assets can be managed how you would want them to be, should you lose capacity during your lifetime.
There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney: Property and Affairs, and Health and Welfare. A Property and Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney allows elected Attorneys to deal with the financial aspects of the Donor’s Estate, whereas the Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney allows your Attorneys to deal with your health and care decisions.
When Can I Put a Lasting Power of Attorney in Place?
The short answer is NOW and before it is too late!
For an LPA to be valid and usable, it must be drafted and signed correctly, registered with the Office of the Public Guardian and must have been created BEFORE you lose mental capacity. Leaving it until after you lose capacity is not an option!
From the age of 18 we are treated by the law as adults. If you have an accident or illness that suddenly prevents you from having the mental capacity to make your own decisions, control does not automatically pass to your next of kin, as many people mistakenly believe.
Unless you have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, your loved ones will not be able to act on your behalf and will potentially be prevented from carrying out your wishes about your care and medical treatment?
Should you need care, the local authority could decide which care home you go into, while taking control of your finances to help fund your care fees.
Your spouse, partner or family will have no say in the matter, they cannot demand you are moved to a different care home if they are unhappy with the level of care you are receiving. All they can do is request a move, or start a lengthy and expensive legal battle through The Court of Protection to have the powers granted to them after the donor has lost mental capacity.
Need help with an LPA?
We would always recommend that you attend one of our FREE public information Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning Webinars in the first instance.
These 45 minute highly informative presentations provide you with a great overview of Estate Planning including Lasting Powers of Attorney and what makes most Wills disastrous!
More Information on Lasting Powers of Attorney
Find out more information about LPAs and how Redwood Financial can help you to put the right safeguards in place for your future, read our recent articles: