What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
You might not think that you need a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or you might think that all you need is your Will. They are entirely different, as a Will deals with your affairs after you die and an LPA can only be used whilst you are living. An LPA allows you to appoint someone to make decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. An LPA doesn’t just make your wishes known – it empowers somebody you trust to make decisions and act on your behalf, based on those wishes, if you are no longer able or don’t want to.
An LPA can prove invaluable during times of long-term ill health or following an accident, for example. Or you may want to emigrate or spend long periods abroad and not want to worry about your financial affairs back in the UK.
What happens without an LPA?
Without an LPA in place, relatives may face long delays and expense in order to look after your financial affairs, or make decisions about your health and medical treatment, at a time when you are unable to do so.
Putting one in place puts you firmly in control of your affairs as you decide exactly how much authority your ‘attorney’ would have and whether you want to impose any restrictions. There are safeguards to make sure that your wishes are carried out and the person acting on your behalf recognises the seriousness of their responsibility.
Finance and welfare
There are two types of LPA: one known as a property and financial affairs LPA that gives your attorney the authority to deal with buying and selling your property, your bills, bank accounts and investments. This can be used while someone still is capable but has chosen to delegate to their attorney.
A personal welfare LPA covers decisions about health and care and even deciding where someone is to live but can only be used if someone is incapable of dealing with such matters themselves. In this type of LPA, you can also give your attorney the right to accept or deny life sustaining treatment in the event that you cannot make the decision yourself.
Office of the Public Guardian
You don’t necessarily need professional advice to make an LPA but you must ensure that the document is completed correctly to avoid having it rejected by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) when registering it (see below). Should this happen, a new document will need to be signed by all parties and there will be an additional charge by the OPG. As with Wills, probate and other legal matters, it’s usually worth getting legal advice if your personal, property or financial affairs are complicated.
An LPA can’t be used until it’s been registered with the OPG which will check that it’s correct and raise any queries .The registration process takes several weeks and there is a fee of £82 (or £41 if your gross annual income is under £12,000 or if you are on certain benefits). If your circumstances, or those of your attorneys change, you can revoke the LPA and make a new one and will be charged the same fee.
Because we are living longer, an increasing number of people are likely to become physically or mentally dependent; there are expected to be a million people with dementia in the UK by 2025, but accidents, strokes, brain injuries and Parkinson’s disease, to name just a few, can also affect someone’s ability to make their own decisions.
Dealing with your financial affairs, health and care would be virtually impossible and without someone authorised to act on your behalf, relatives can face long delays, expense and distress if they have to go through the Court of Protection to be permitted to do so.
If you would like advice regarding Lasting Powers of Attorney, please contact our experienced Wills and Probate team today on 033 3344 9606 or 033 3344 9600 or complete our online contact form.