Life is full of surprises. Some good, some not so good. For the most part, we deal with them and move on. But what if the curveball life threw at you was that you could no longer make decisions for yourself?
Many of us understand the importance of making a will, and that in order for our assets to be distributed as we wish we need to legally state this.
But how many of us understand the importance of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
This highly significant document essentially details what would happen if you could no longer make any decisions for yourself – and we’re talking about important things like your health, finances and welfare.
Won’t my next of kin be in charge if this happens?
Surprisingly, no. A lot of people assume their spouse or relatives can simply pick up the reins of decision making, but this isn’t actually the case. Elderly people often assume that their grown-up children can make decisions on their behalf – but again, this isn’t the case unless they have specified it through an LPA.
What exactly is an LPA?
It’s a legal document which allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf if you can’t. An LPA can be made by anyone aged over 18 and with sound mental capacity. It’s not just for the elderly either, it’s for everyone.
So it’s really worth thinking about putting one in place – then you can relax.
What type of decisions does an LPA cover?
There are two different types of LPA.
Health and welfare focuses on your wellbeing, care, where you live and how you are looked after. It can cover basics such as what you eat but will also cover hugely significant areas, such as medication and life-saving or life-sustaining treatment.
Be under no illusions: these could be potentially very big decisions you will be asking someone to make, but better to be someone who understands your wishes than someone who doesn’t know you.
Property and finance again covers a huge number of areas. So it can include things like paying your bills and collecting your pension, as well as more complex factors like selling your house or managing your investments.
Who should I ask to be my attorney?
When we’re talking about an ‘attorney’ we mean the person you appoint to make these decisions, so not to be confused with a solicitor. Essentially, you can choose whoever you like as long as you trust them and they are reliable.
It doesn’t have to be a family member or your best friend just because they think it ought to be them.
And you can choose more than one attorney and this often makes good sense. Looking after tricky financial affairs is a different task to managing your personal wellbeing, so someone who you would trust to make the right decisions for you on each of these areas.
If it’s a professional organisation, they may ask for a fee for these services, but you will know you’re in good hands.
It’s very important that your attorney knows you are appointing them – and is happy for you to do so. You can even think about appointing replacement attorneys, in case your first choice is themself unable to fulfil their commitments.
What happens if I don’t have an LPA?
If you have not made a LPA and you are no longer capable of doing so, then the Court of Protection will appoint someone to act on your behalf. This individual is called your deputy. This may be a family member but not necessarily so.
Typically the Court will appoint a deputy for property and financial affairs but rarely health and welfare. It is therefore very important to ensure that your affairs are in order. It is much better to choose whom you wish to act rather than have that individual imposed upon you by the Court.
An important decision
Of course planning for the future isn’t always the first thing on our minds, and with busy lives, work, families and other commitments it can be enough to just get through day by day. But making an LPA won’t take long and then it’s done.
Making a decision now means if there ever comes a time when you can’t, the right person will step into your shoes and make decisions on your behalf.
As we said earlier, life is full of surprises. No one knows what’s around the corner. But a little planning really does go a long way when it comes to your peace of mind. A Lasting Power of Attorney is essential.
Lester Aldridge is a nationally recognised law firm with offices in London, Bournemouth and Southampton.
The Private Client team are leaders in their field. Kurt, Paula, Harriet and Melanie are specialist private client experts with a wealth of experience in all areas of private client work from wills to tax, trusts and probate. If you would like more information, call 01202 786294.