Losing your capacity to make a decision concerning your own health and welfare and financial decisions is awful to think about. As solicitors, we understand the added trauma of not having a Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) in place so we encourage you to consider it when you are of sound mind in order to put the necessary safeguards in place.
LPAs are one way to protect both yourself and your assets should anything happen to you. It is important that you consider who would be best to appoint as your attorney, it should be someone you trust and who knows you well.
There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney available, one to manage your Property and Financial affairs and one for your Health and Welfare.
To help you understand the great importance of registering LPAs here are some of the most common misconceptions:
1. Are LPAs only for the elderly?
Whilst elderly people have a greater risk of losing their capacity it could happen to any of us at any time. Younger people should not overlook this possibility and you may risk leaving your loved ones having to deal with long and expensive court battles to make simple decisions regarding your finances and health decisions.
Unfortunately, capacity can be lost at any age and this is something to take into consideration. This could happen through a physical accident or through ill-health
2. If I make an LPA, will I immediately lose the power to make decisions for myself?
Registering an LPA does not mean that you will automatically lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. Whilst you have mental capacity the LPA can only be used with your consent. Once you have lost capacity then the LPA can only be used when it is in your best interest.
3. If I make an LPA, then will my attorney make all my decisions for me if I lose mental capacity?
Your attorney does not have to make all your decisions for you once you have lost capacity. You can specify in your LPA what you would like them to do. Therefore, this is something which needs to be thought about carefully before sending the LPA/s off for registration.
For example, a health and welfare LPA can allow your attorney to make decisions as to your healthcare treatment. A property and financial affairs LPA can allow them to make decisions regarding your investments, bank accounts and the ability to sell your property. You are able to specify in your LPA how you would like your attorneys to deal with the above.
4. Do I still need to register an LPA if I want my spouse to automatically be able to deal with my affairs?
Even if you and your spouse hold joint bank accounts they will not necessarily be automatically able to help you manage your financial affairs if you lose capacity. A lot of banks may freeze withdrawals from joint bank accounts if one of the account holders loses capacity as the account holder without capacity is no longer able to agree to the terms of the agreement that both parties can withdraw from the account.
By granting an LPA to your spouse this will enable them to manage a joint account on behalf of you both. Otherwise, your spouse may struggle to regain access to your joint accounts and funds.
5. If I am unable to make a decision about my own healthcare, will the doctors follow the wishes of my loved ones anyway?
This is one of the biggest myths surrounding LPAs. If you lose capacity your next of kin would not automatically be able to make decisions on your behalf and therefore it is important that you appoint an attorney.
If you lose capacity without having granted any LPAs your loved ones would have to go through an expensive and lengthy court process to be granted permission to make decisions on your behalf.
If you would like further information about how a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) could be beneficial to you or family/friends then please get in touch with our solicitors via email or on 020 7833 4433.