What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
Power of Attorney is the legal process by which you can appoint somebody else to deal with your financial and legal affairs, or to make health and welfare decisions on your behalf, in the future should this prove necessary or desirable. Ideally, this should be considered when you are well and healthy, rather than as a panicked reaction when illness strikes.
The process takes several months to complete, as central registration is required, and therefore needs to be considered well in advance, when it is also much easier to make dispassionate decisions as to who should be appointed.
There are two different kinds of Power of Attorney that can be considered:
• Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Property and Affairs – under this arrangement, you can appoint individuals to act on your behalf and make decisions in respect of your property and financial affairs in the future, whenever you want. One such example is that you may decide to make such an arrangement if you were going to go on a round the world cruise for several months.
• LPA for Health and Welfare – this is very similar to the other document but covers health and welfare decisions. Unlike the LPA for Property and Affairs, the attorney can only make decisions for your health and welfare should you be incapacitated, which means you lack the mental capacity to make those decisions for yourself.
Both documents need to be completed and signed by you and signed by your Attorneys. In addition, a “certificate provider” needs to confirm that you understand the document and are not under any undue pressure to sign it. This just adds a layer of safeguarding, and ensures you are not being abused financially or otherwise.
Obtaining specialist advice
There are several very important aspects of the LPA document that need to be considered with specialist assistance.
Choosing your attorney and understanding the level of authority they will have needs to be something you consider in detail, and it may often be the case that the obvious choices are not the best ones.
The signing process is also quite difficult – you may go through the whole process and end up with a document that is not valid if it does not comply with certain formalities which the Office of the Public Guardian requires.
When it comes to LPAs, most people will have heard of, or possibly even made, an LPA in relation to their property and financial affairs but may not have appreciated the importance of putting in place an LPA in respect of their health and welfare.
What happens if I lose mental capacity in the future and don’t have a health and welfare LPA in place?
If you lose mental capacity and don’t have an LPA in place, social workers and medical professionals will act in what they believe to be your best interests. However, this, of course, may not reflect what you would want.
A health and welfare attorney has the power to make decisions on your behalf about your daily routine, medical care, moving into a care home and life-sustaining medical treatment. It can allow you to sleep easy in the knowledge that your wishes will be respected and that your loved ones will not have to suffer additional stress on top of an already difficult situation.
Discuss creating an LPA with an SFE lawyer who will be able to help lay out your wishes to ensure you’re protected for the future.