Putting in place a Power of Attorney is something that most of us don’t usually consider until an urgent situation arises. Sadly, that can mean that not all parties have complete understanding of how it works and how important it is. Instead, why not consider a Lasting Power Of Attorney (LPA) before you need to use it, so that everyone involved has made a completely informed decision. To help you get started, here’s some information about how they work, particularly beyond just the financial side of things:
What Is a Lasting Power Of Attorney?
A Lasting Power Of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document which means that one person enables another person to make decisions for them. So if you would like your son or daughter to make financial or healthcare decisions for you, they have to have a Power Of Attorney over those things, given to them by you.
You can only set up a Lasting Power Of Attorney whilst you are of sound mind, although you can do it quickly if something urgent comes up, but clearly this isn’t ideal. The sooner you can put an LPA in place, the better, so that you are taking this major decision fully informed of the implications.
There are several types of Power Of Attorney with Lasting Power Of Attorney now being the most common type in the UK, which is where there is no expiry date. A registered document of this type can be used straight away, with regulations to ensure your permission is sought first. Should you not be of sound mind at some point, with this document in place your loved one will be able to take over your financial affairs and make decisions about your health and welfare.
You may want to discuss these details with a solicitor but it is not a requirement to do so. However, it is important to discuss not just your finances but also your elderly care preferences well in advance of needing any home care, live-in care or residential care. And before any pressing medical issues affect your ability to have the document put in place.
Power Of Attorney – Did You Know It Can Cover Healthcare?
Some people think that a Lasting Power Of Attorney only applies to property and finances, when in fact many people also set one up to cover health and welfare. By setting up a Lasting Power Of Attorney for Health and Welfare you give your nominated person the power to make important decisions about your healthcare.
For instance, whether you would be happy to move to residential care or whether you would prefer to be cared for in your own home by a professional live-in carer supported by nursing care, if necessary. Or whether you should receive certain medications, receive life-saving or sustaining medical care in cases such as a coma. This kind of LPA can only be created whilst you have full mental capacity, so it is important not to leave it until a major medical event occurs where you are no longer able to nominate a person to act in your best interests.
Choosing An “Attorney”
Choosing a nominated person to act as your “attorney” is so important and shows the deepest trust over a person so you really do need to think about it carefully. An “attorney” can be anybody you want, from your family or friends, to professional people like solicitors. No legal experience is required on their part.
In all instances you really must ask the person you are considering first, to ensure they are happy to do it. It is a major responsibility and some people just won’t feel up to it.
You may also have more than one person who wants to do it, say if you have two children, which can also make the job of choosing difficult. If you want to appoint both children you can, but you have to say whether they can make decisions separately and together, or if they have to work jointly on each issue. You can also specify who is in charge of which matters if you want. So perhaps one child takes charge of your finances, and another takes charge of your healthcare.
You may also want to think further into the future, and appoint secondary attorneys, or replacement attorneys who replace your original choices in case they are unable to act on your behalf.
Your Attorney, in all cases, has certain principles to abide by to ensure they are doing the right thing. They are bound to:
- Always assume you are able to make your own decisions, before making a decision for you
- Help you make decisions as much as you are able to, before a decision is made for you
- Enable you to make decisions they don’t agree with e.g. you want live-in care but they would prefer you move to a residential care home.
- Choose the decision that is least restrictive of your rights
- Always act in your best interests
There are measures you can take if the appointed person does not seem to be acting in the way that they should be, although this is a complex process, making the initial choice that much more important.
If you do not have a Lasting Power Of Attorney for your financial affairs and your health and welfare when you need one, you may end up having decisions made for you by people you would rather did not have control over your life.
Hopefully, you can appoint a person that you trust, so you have the peace of mind knowing they will act in your best interest should you become too unwell to make decisions for yourself.
Remember there are 2 separate types of LPA:
- health and welfare
- property and financial affairs
The more informed you are now, the more informed your decision will be when it comes to appointing somebody to help you during your golden years. That kind of peace of mind is so valuable, it pays to take the time to get it right.