Lasting Powers of Attorney – a useful planning tool or a path to financial abuse?
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia. It is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have, because it allows you to pass potentially life-changing decisions about your affairs on to a third party.
It is absolutely right that people should be planning ahead for the future with LPAs, but granting someone this sort of authority over your affairs is an extremely big responsibility for all parties involved.
At Onions & Davies, we make a lot of LPAs for people and here are some top tips for getting the best out of them:
- Plan early – While you have capacity, it’s vital that you get your affairs in order and choose the best people to manage your affairs, in case of an accident or illness. You can’t appoint an attorney once you lose capacity.
- Choose carefully – Think carefully who you want to appoint as your attorney and have an open conversation with them, so they understand your wishes and what their responsibilities will include. Consider appointing more than one person as your attorney so they can share the responsibility.
- Consider appointing a professional – A family member might not always be the best person to act as your attorney. Instead, you can appoint a professional, such as a solicitor. They can act as a neutral third party and make unbiased decisions that are in your best interests. Bear in mind this usually involves a cost.
- Think about different circumstances – Consider how you would like your attorney to manage your property and financial affairs in different situations. For example, are you happy for your property to be sold to pay for your care costs?
- Address the difficult questions – Your attorney might have to make difficult decisions about your health and welfare. If you have specific wishes around your care plans, medical treatment, or end of life wishes, make sure you discuss this with them and make your choices clear in your document.
- Seek professional advice – Shop-bought and online LPA kits may be suitable for those with very straightforward financial situations or with considerable legal experience, but for most people, seeking professional legal advice is the best way of ensuring that an LPA is effective, legally robust and safe.
- Keep your plans current – Make sure you keep your LPA updated if your circumstances change. Your choices around the people you want responsible for your finances and wellbeing may change, such as following a marriage or divorce, when children reach adulthood, or if parents pass away.
This is a specialist area of the law, and we recommend that anyone considering an LPA goes to a legal expert to ensure they get the right advice, consider all the options, and safeguard themselves for the future. Chris Milne has over 20 years’ experience in advising on powers of attorney. As a full, accredited, member of Solicitors For the Elderly, with the Older Client Care in Practice award, he is well placed to help you and provide you with the best advice. Contact him on 01630 652405 or firstname.lastname@example.org .