Lasting Powers of Attorney
Samantha Willingham, Solicitor in Graham & Rosen's Wills and Probate Department discusses how to avoid losing control if you lose mental capacity.
What happens if I can no longer handle my finances or personal welfare?
You may think that this responsibility automatically falls on your spouse, children or next of kin; however, this isn’t always the case and you should not assume that this is what will happen. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to choose the people who you trust to be appointed, legally, to manage and make decisions relating to your finances and your health and welfare. There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney; one for financial matters, and one for health and care decisions. A Lasting Power of Attorney must be registered before it can be used. A Lasting Power of Attorney for health and care decisions can only be used once mental capacity is lost.
Unfortunately we cannot predict what is around the corner and accidents and illnesses can happen at any time, at any age. Most people associate the loss of mental capacity with dementia and Alzheimer’s; however, it can also be lost through accidents, a stroke, other illnesses and even substance misuse. Therefore it is essential that you have the people who you trust to step in straightaway should they need to do so.
Should anything happen to you mentally or physically that results in you beingunable to manage your finances or make your own decisions, then without a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, your loved ones may face difficulties and problems at an already very stressful time. They may not be able to access any of your money to pay bills, deal with your bank accounts, investments, or your property.
It is never too early to prepare Lasting Powers of Attorney. You must have mental capacity to prepare one so if you wait too long it may be too late to put one in place, at the time you most need it. Should someone need to be appointed at that point to manage your affairs then the only option is to apply for a Deputyship, which is both very costly and very time consuming. Also with a Deputyship you have no say in who that person will be and there are many more requirements and supervision placed on them. For many reasons deputyship is something best avoided.
It is therefore crucial to be prepared early and prepare Lasting Powers of Attorney to ensure that everything will be taken care of in the event that something happens to you. Just as you should prepare a Will to make things easier for your loved ones when you die, preparing a Lasting Power of Attorney makes things easier for them if you lose mental capacity. Do not leave it too late!