I don’t want to bore you with stats but around 85% of people still don’t have a Lasting Power of Attorney. Shocked? If you’re in that number you should be. Articles in the press are prompting people to heed the warnings of being left without one and given that the Office of the Public Guardian is currently working at capacity dealing with just over 3,000 applications a day, suggests that those without are starting to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is just as important as a Will, though alarmingly most people don’t even know what they are, and some even think it’s part of their Will. It isn’t! The first important difference is that where a Will speaks from the date of death (all the more reason to make one now as you won’t be around to do anything about it on the day of reading) a Lasting Power of Attorney deals with matters while you’re still alive and you don’t have the mental capacity to make your own decisions. There are two types, and both are equally important. One deals with your financial and property affairs, and the other deals with health and welfare issues.
So when might you need one? Most tend to think that Lasting Powers of Attorney are just for people that are older and living with dementia, and whilst they are super important in those instances, particularly when facing the ever growing challenge of NHS care funding, they are just as important for younger people too. Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to have dementia to lack mental capacity. Imagine you had an accident or were struck down by illness and were in a coma. You wouldn’t be able to make decisions for yourself and would therefore have to rely on someone else to make those decisions for you. Of course, that would mean all decisions, from changing the date of your mortgage payments or arranging a payment holiday while you are unable to work and earn money, talking to your insurance providers, or even whether you should receive life sustaining treatment.
Here comes the scary bit. Without one, who makes those decisions for you? Most people I speak to are convinced that it would be their next of kin, a loved one or relative, perhaps even an adult child. Wrong! They would have to apply to the Court of Protection for Deputyship, and that can run into thousands of pounds and take many months. In the meantime, a healthcare professional or social worker (that doesn’t know you or anything about you) will make decisions for you based on what theybelieve to be in your best interests. Of course they should speak to those close to you but they are not legally bound to follow what they say. Imagine those that know you best, know what you would want and need, powerless to help. And then of course comes the unwelcome process of applying for Deputyship.
Making a Lasting Power of Attorney can be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. We’ve all thought ‘That won’t happen to me’ just like the time you forgot to take out holiday insurance and remembered after you lost your bag.
Don’t be one of the 85% walking around eyes wide shut.
This information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.
Nino Cuffaro – Wills, Trust and Probate
T: 020 7183 1485