Why set up a Lasting Power of Attorney?

As the average age of the UK population increases – currently 86 for men and 89 for women* – we are unfortunately at a greater risk of developing degenerative mental conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Conditions such as these, which can severely impair the way we make decisions, are not particularly pleasant to think about, but it is wise to consider what would happen to your wealth and your personal care if you lost your mental capacity.

Fortunately, there are legal documents that enable us to plan for the future now, while we are well and capable of doing so. Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are two essential documents that allow those you trust most to make decisions on your behalf, or about you, should a time come when you need them to.

There are two different types of LPAs, each with unique features aimed to protect your future:

  • Health and Welfare LPAs allow the person/s you choose to use this legal document when you no longer have mental capacity to make decisions for yourself. Accident or illness can strike at any time, and this document will ensure the people closest to you have the right to make decisions on your behalf should you need them to. These decisions could include where you are treated, your diet, medication, even whether to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment.
  • Your Property and Financial Affairs LPA, on the other hand, allows those you trust most to manage your finances at any time of your life. You might choose not to handle all or certain parts of your finances yourself any longer; or want a safeguard should you become unable to manage them.

Don’t leave it too late

When we are fit and well it can be tempting to think that we can leave the arrangement of these documents until we are older. Or perhaps even assume that – worst case scenario – our spouse or children will legally be able to make these important decisions for us anyway, should the time come.

Sadly, this is not the case, and could result in a very distressing time for your family should you become incapacitated without your LPAs in place.

If you lose mental capacity and you do not have an LPA for health and care decisions, any decisions about your healthcare will be made by doctors who will make a decision based on your best interests. They will consult your family, but the final decision will rest with medical staff.

Likewise, if you are married then you may have assumed that your spouse will automatically be able to deal with your bank accounts or pensions if you are unable to. Again, this is not the case.

Even if you and your partner have a joint bank account, if one of you loses mental capacity then the other does not automatically have the right to access the account without a valid LPA in place, naming them as an attorney.

Arranging your LPAs now, while you are able to, is the best way to protect yourself and your finances in the future. Without one, your family could be left feeling powerless at an already distressing time.

Read more about these essential documents here, or find out more about our Lasting Powers of Attorney service by calling free on 0800 411 8668.

*Office for National Statistics