One of the fastest growing health issues in UK society is the seemingly relentless rise in dementia. This terrifying category of diseases combined with an older population means that it’s never been more important to get your affairs in order as early as possible. But if dementia does take hold, at what point do you hand over responsibility to a nominated person and grant them Power of Attorney over your financial affairs?
Marie Verney, Solicitor in Gardner Leader’s ‘ Inheritance Protection Team explains “ Wills are, without doubt, an essential part of estate planning. It’s not something that people want to think about at any age, but unless you want to leave a financial tangle behind for your bereaved relatives to sort out after you’re gone, it’s crucial to make sure your Will is taken care of earlier rather than later. The creation of an LPA ( ‘Lasting Power of Attorney’) is also a key part of estate planning”.
An LPA is a legal document that allows you to appoint one or more people to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to. These nominees are referred to as attorneys. Your attorneys do not have to have legal experience to qualify, and are usually close relatives or trusted friends. There are two types of LPA:
- A Health and Welfare LPA can specify what kind of treatment and palliative care you want if you have a degenerative disease like dementia, whether you should be moved into a care home, and specifics concerning your daily routine. A Health and Welfare power of attorney can only be used when you are unable to make your own decisions.
- A Property and Financial Affairs LPA gives your attorney the power to manage or assist with the management of your money and property on your behalf. For example managing your bank or building society accounts, paying bills or even selling your home should you need to go into a care home.
Marie added ‘as a power of attorney is often agreed upon before the dementia really starts to affect the cognitive ability of the sufferer, it can be months or even years later when the power of attorney status really comes into play. By then, the family dynamic may have dramatically altered, as may the financial situation of the sufferer, especially if they have been forced to go into a care home.
If you have lost your mental capacity and do not have either LPA, your relatives or trusted friends would not have the legal authority to assist you with your daily needs. For example, they could not access your bank accounts to pay your bills or speak to your medical team about your care or the treatment you may need. To obtain the legal authority an application to Court of Protection would need to be made for a Deputyship Order. This procedure is costly and it can take months before a Deputyship Order is obtained. The Order will detail what your deputy can and can’t do and will set out the deputy’s requirement to keep accurate records. Your deputy will also be required to submit a report each year to the Office of the Public Guardian explaining the decisions they have made as deputy.
This is why it is so important to sort out not only your Will, but any LPAs as early as possible, especially after the diagnosis of a degenerative disease. LPAs can, in fact, bring families closer together, as they ensure the sufferer is cared for properly, and that those granted the Power of Attorney are fully aware of their responsibilities from the outset’.
To find out more information about how our WPEP team can assist you contact Marie here.