In a recently published report men, at 65, can expect to live a further 19 years and women a further 21years. If a man gets to 75 he can expect to live a further 12 and women a further 13 years. That’s the good news. According to the Dementia UK it is predicted that by 2025 more than a million people will suffer from dementia. Currently over 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and it highlights that women suffer more than men.
The problem with living longer is that sometimes we have fewer friends and family who live close by. They may have died or they might not be in a position to help because they themselves suffer from dementia. Another consideration is what happens if you are young, have had a brain injury or accident that prevents you from taking care of yourself?
So what happens if you lose your capacity and you are likely to require care and support for the rest of your life? This is particularly relevant if you are under the age of 40. Given the growing levels of bureaucracy managing the financial affairs of others is and will continue to become so full of red tape that nobody will want to take up the role. If you don’t have Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) in place your best intentions will be frustrated. If you don’t have LPAs in place, as a relative you can face long delays in making applications to the Court of Protection to gain access and take control of your loved one’s finances and assets. It is also an expensive process.
For good or bad, LPA forms are designed to be recognised by financial institutions, banks and building societies, residential homes, the local authority as well and other government bodies. They are legal documents and if your needs are relatively straightforward you could probably do them yourself with or without the help of a solicitor. They can and often are made at the same time you make a Will.
There are two types of LPA: one that can cover decisions about money matters, known as the financial decisions LPA, and one that can cover decisions about health and care known as the Health and care decisions LPA. A key difference is that the financial decisions LPA can be used while someone still has capacity, whereas the health and care LPA can only be used once you have lost capacity.
One practical reason to make them is that if they are required urgently having them in place means that they can be used straight away. If you have signed copies but they are not registered with the Office of The Public Guardian then you could be waiting up to 8-12 weeks for them to be registered and available for use. Registering the document can take up to three months and costs £110 per LPA. If you are on benefits, or your income is less than £12,000, you are eligible for an exemption or reduction. If you decide to use a solicitor charges vary enormously, from around £400 to £1,000 including VAT, so do shop around.
You may choose anyone you trust as your attorney, so long as they are over 18, not bankrupt and they are willing to take on the role, which is a serious responsibility. It is their duty to make all decisions in your best interests.
If you are appointed as an attorney for the Financial Decisions LPA you can make decisions on such things as buying and selling property, dealing with bills, running bank accounts and investing money. If you have a Health and Care Decisions LPA, you can generally make decisions about where the person, you are acting as attorney for, should live, how you should be treated medically, what they should eat and who they should have contact with.
Before you consult a solicitor read through the forms and guidance first. If you want to set up a straightforward LPA and feel confident and clear about what you want to do and are not put off by the forms, then you can probably do it without legal advice. Remember it’s important to understand that an LPA is a serious, powerful document so, if in doubt, take legal advice. For example, if you want place restrictions on an attorney then drafting the documents can become more complex. If you make a mistake then the Office of the Public Guardian may sever a restriction or, in extreme cases, render the power of attorney invalid. The Office of The Public Guardian can reject the forms for even the most simple of errors.
However, it is not all sunshine and flowers. With power comes responsibility. Thinking that setting up an LPA you will solve all future problems you would be wrong. Some banks and building societies are particularly bad when dealing with people trying to exercise existing powers of attorney on behalf of vulnerable relatives. What happens if the attorneys die or are they incapable of acting?
If you would like straightforward, expert advice on setting up Lasting Powers of Attorney please contact me, Eilish Adams, on 020 8899 6620 or email me at email@example.com.