The Alzheimer’s Society has calculated that in 2015 there were 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. This is set to rise to 1 million people in the UK by 2025.
Of course, there are also lots of other illnesses which can affect your mental capacity and/or memory and understanding. Add these in to the statistics and loss of mental capacity becomes a modern day phenomenon.
Whilst there is increased public awareness of the importance of having a Will, Powers of Attorney are still a little more unknown. Whilst a Will is extremely important in order to make things more straight forward for those you leave behind, by comparison a Power of Attorney can be even more important as not having one has an impact on how your family can help you during your lifetime.
If you have lost mental capacity to manage your own affairs, without a Power of Attorney in place your family may find it virtually impossible to handle your financial affairs and your health and care. Long gone are the days when bank managers would know their local customers and exercise a degree of flexibility when trying to help families to pay their parent’s bills etc…They now deal with people online and by phone and need to be certain they are dealing with the right person and the person in question has authority to act.
When you complete Lasting Powers of Attorney (“LPA”), you are giving your chosen Attorney(s) legal authority to act on your behalf in relation to your Financial affairs and or Health and Welfare; should you be in a position where you can no longer look after these things yourself.
If you do not have LPAs in place and later become mentally incapacitated, someone will need to apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed as a Deputy to get access and take control of your assets and finances. This can take a long time and be expensive. The role of a Deputy compared to an Attorney is also more onerous as it will involve a lot more direct contact with the Court as you have not chosen who is acting for you.
It is possible to complete LPAs yourself, but it’s important to remember that they are serious, powerful documents.
So, should you do it yourself or use a solicitor?
There are subtly different ways in which an Attorney can be appointed and this can have serious implications if you chose the wrong type for your personal situation. Without taking legal advice there is the danger of making errors of judgment in drafting the form that can accidently make things difficult for your Attorneys in the future. In more serious cases, if the LPA is drafted or signed incorrectly then the Office of the Public Guardian (“OPG”) may refuse to register the LPA, or they could sever a restriction or, in extreme cases, render the LPA invalid.
The Ministry of Justice has stated that in 2014 the number of LPA applications which were either rejected by OPG, and the applicant had to redo their application (and incur extra fees) or where it was necessary for the applicant to supply further information or documentation prior to an approval decision being made was 50,118. In the first 5 months of 2015 this figure had already reached 24,097.
Having a registered LPA in place is not all doom and gloom; it can also simply make your life easier. We have clients who still have their mental capacity but they can use their Property and Finance LPA to ask their attorneys to help run their financial affairs as they do not want to deal with it all anymore… why wait on the phone for an hour to your energy supplier when your attorney can do it for you?
The important thing to remember is that like Wills, whilst many people do not like to think about a future where they have lost capacity as it can feel a bit melancholy, these documents are not just for the elderly or the infirm. Mental incapacity can affect all walks of life and at any time through sudden accident or illness. When a Lasting Power of Attorney has been completed the vast majority of people achieve a peace of mind, knowing that they have done everything they can do, to help themselves and the others around them, should the worst happen.
Get in touch with a member of our Private Client team to discuss putting your Lasting Power of Attorney in place: