East midlands-based law firm, JMP Solicitors, outlines its advice for those considering making a lasting power of attorney, either for themselves, a relative or close friend.
A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that allows you (the donor) to choose someone to make decisions for you, or act on your behalf if you are no longer able or capable to do so, due to reasons such as an illness like dementia or a stroke, or as a result of an accident.
The person you have appointed to be your LPA becomes known as your ‘attorney’ and can legally make decisions on your behalf. There are two types of LPA – one relating to a person’s property and finances and the other relating to health and welfare. Special permissions can also be put into place involving decisions about life-saving treatment.
The process of arranging a lasting power of attorney (LPA) could be set to change following a government announcement last month, which would make the process largely digital in an effort to simplify and speed up registration and prevent abuse of the system.
Andrea Bingham, solicitor at JMP Solicitors, says: “Having a lasting power of attorney in place for yourself or a loved one can provide real peace of mind – should circumstances change in the future and leave the donor unable or unwilling to make decisions on their own, the attorney can take control and make those decisions in the donor’s best interest.
“Even if you are young and in good health, just like a will, it is worth considering putting a lasting power of attorney in place for yourself, so that there is somebody you trust registered to make decisions for you if you become unable or incapable of doing it yourself.”
A 12-week consultation was launched by the government earlier last month, tasked with examining the entire process of creating and registering an LPA. It aims to boost the Office of Public Guardian’s powers to prevent fraud and abuse of an LPA, making the process of creating an LPA easier and more efficient, and alter the process to a predominantly digital service reducing paperwork and amending requirements for signing and witnessing of the documents.
Andrea says: “The news that this is now under consultation with a view to streamlining the application process will, hopefully, make the scheme safer, more efficient and accessible to a larger number of people.”
The most common uses of lasting powers of attorney relate to the elderly – where, for example, someone suffering with dementia becomes unable to look after themself or their property and requires residential care. In this instance, the registered attorney could have the power to assist in choosing where the elderly person can live, what happens to their property, finances and other assets and can speak to suppliers and companies on that person’s behalf, such as banks, electricity, gas and water suppliers.
Andrea says: “Registering an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian can currently take up to twelve weeks to be finalised. We would recommend that everyone considers having an LPA in place for themselves, parents or other relatives, just so you know it is there if it is ever needed.
“It is a misconception to assume that if you are married or in a civil partnership, your spouse will be able to deal with your bank account and pensions, and make decisions about your healthcare if you lose the ability to do so – this is not the case.
“Without an LPA, a spouse will not have the authority to do any of these things, which could be difficult at an already challenging time, especially if the joint owner has their only form of income, such as their pension, paid into a sole account.
“Planning for the future by having a lasting power of attorney in place could save a lot of cost and distress for you or a loved one in the long term, and if these proposed changes to the current system are made, it will make the process much safer, smoother and easier to navigate.”
If you require advice about lasting powers of attorney, please contact Andrea Bingham at JMP Solicitors for a free initial consultation on 01476 565 295 or email email@example.com.