Although associated mainly with those who are either ill or elderly, a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be useful for any person at any stage in their life.
An LPA is a legal document that allows you to choose a trusted person (an attorney) to make important decisions on your behalf if you lose the capacity to do so yourself. There are two different LPAs (Health & Welfare and Property & Financial) that are available and you can choose to have either one or both, with the same person or different people appointed as attorneys.
Health and welfare LPA
This form of LPA allows your attorney to make decisions only about your health and welfare. These could include what treatments you receive, if you should be placed in a care home and even what should happen to pets if you lose mental capacity. With this LPA, an attorney is only able to act when you no longer have mental capacity.
Property and financial LPA
This form of LPA allows your attorney to make decisions about your finances, such as looking after your bills, dealing with finances, your property, giving gifts on your behalf. This LPA can begin as soon as it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, however you are able to stipulate that you wish for it to only be used at the point you lose mental capacity.
Having an LPA does not mean that a person could have control over yourself or your finances unchecked. As you can stipulate that an LPA only becomes effective when you have lost mental capacity (which can be only temporary), they will only be able to make decisions at this point. Even when they are able to act, they are under a duty to act within your best interests, not their own or anyone else’s.
Another way to ensure that your attorney is acting in your best interests is to appoint more than one. Multiple attorneys can act jointly, which means all decisions need to be made between them, or severally, which means that either one may make a decision individually. If you appoint joint attorneys and one becomes unable to act, the whole LPA fails, so it is worth considering which decisions you would prefer having made jointly, as you are able to specify your instructions in the LPA.
LPAs can become complicated and it is recommended that you consult with an expert to ensure that you are choosing the right one for your circumstances as well as ensuring your instructions are recorded correctly.
There will be a fee for drafting each LPA and also a fee payable to the Office of The Public Guardian for registering an LPA, however this is small in comparison to the court fees should your family and friends need to apply to have decisions made on your behalf (over £6,000). It can also save time and expense of bills being missed whilst the court application is taking place. An LPA also means you have chosen those closest to you and most trusted, to make important decisions when you are unable to, rather than the courts or Public Guardian.
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