One of the fastest growing health issues in UK society is the seemingly relentless rise in dementia, meaning it has never been more important to get your affairs in order as early as possible.
Wills are, without doubt, an essential part of the process of planning for later life. It is not something that people want to think about at any age. Unless you want to leave a financial tangle behind for your bereaved relatives to sort out after you are gone, it is crucial to make sure your will is taken care of.
Lasting Power of Attorney – to look after your affairs
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a document that allows you to appoint one or more people to look after your affairs and make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so.
These people are referred to as attorneys, although they do not necessarily have to have legal experience to qualify, and are usually close relatives or trusted friends. There are two types of LPA:
- A Health and Welfare LPA can specify what kind of treatment and palliative care you want if you have a degenerative disease like dementia, whether you should be moved into a care home and specifics concerning your daily routine.
- A Property and Financial Affairs LPA gives your attorney access to your finances to manage your affairs when you are unable to. They will be able to access your bank accounts, pay bills and, if necessary, arrange the sale of your property if you go into a care home.
LPAs must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, which can take up to ten weeks to complete, it is therefore vital to get the ball rolling as early as possible. LPAs have to be made by a person while they are still capable of making rational decisions concerning their future care, financial matters, and how their estate is to be managed once they are no longer capable of doing it for themselves.
There has to be a degree of trust between the sufferer and the person appointed to take responsibility for the instructions laid out in the LPA, whether that’s a Financial or a Health and Welfare agreement.
Court of Protection appointed deputy
There is an alternative to an LPA – a Court of Protection appointed deputy. These are usually appointed by a third party on behalf of a dementia sufferer once they have lost the ability to appoint their own representative.
However, this is rarely offered as an alternative to an LPA, primarily because in the majority of cases an LPA has been arranged long before a dementia sufferer loses the ability to make considered decisions about their future care.
As long as the person making the LPA trusts their proposed attorney and is mentally capable of making that decision, there shouldn’t be any problems.
A court-appointed deputy is only really appropriate after a dementia sufferer has lost the ability to make rational decisions for themselves, or there is no one to act as an attorney. They have to provide a full list of assets and annual accounts, as well as a security bond. The application process is lengthy and it is therefore preferable to have an LPA in place wherever possible.
Sorting things out sooner rather than later
As power of attorney is often agreed upon before the condition really starts to affect the cognitive ability of the sufferer, it can be months or even years later when the power of attorney really comes into play.
By then, the family dynamic may have changed, as may the financial situation of the sufferer, especially if they have moved into a care home.
This is why it is so important to sort out not only your will, but any LPAs as early as possible, especially after the diagnosis of a degenerative disease.
LPAs can, in fact, bring families closer together, as they ensure the sufferer is cared for properly, and that those granted the Power of Attorney are fully aware of their responsibilities from the outset.
Posted on December 6, 2017