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Lasting Powers of Attorney, or LPAs are legal documents that outlines for an individual who is or are appointed as an attorney/s in the event that the person making the LPA is not able to make decisions for themselves during their lifetime. There are two types of LPA, one covering property and financial affairs and the other in relation to health and welfare decisions including medical. LPAs are extremely important – as without one, your wishes and feelings may not be properly taken into account and there is no one to step in and make any decision needed in your best interests. In some cases sadly without an LPA the result in arguments amongst the family, particularly where there is a second marriage.
LPAs are potentially as important as a will, yet they are not given as much attention because writing a will is often given the priority. This is not necessarily wrong however for many people/ families wills and LPAs should be given equal priority. Essentially wills should be reviewed and refreshed every few years or every time something significant changes in your circumstances, e.g. further children or remarriage.when making an LPA careful consideration needs to be given as to who you can appoint and who can properly act as attorney if needs be. After all, if the attorney acts improperly and squanders your money there may be less left left for your executors to administer under the terms of your will when you die.
It is also important to consider that, according to information by the public guardian’s office for England and Wales, we are expecting the biggest population growth over the next two decades in the over 65s category.
Thankfully, LPAs are being given more airtime and it has led to a steady increase in interest. Last year alone more than 800,000 further LPAs were registered, which is a growth of around 7%, or 3,000 – 4,000 per day.
As we are all living longer there are more attorneys actively involved in making financial and welfare decisions for someone else. The financial attorney becomes responsible for any mortgage, rent or bill payments, but they will also be authorised to use any cash or bank cards, including savings, you may have. The attorney/s appointed in a registered LPA is/ are the only person/s in law who is/ are able to act on your behalf in the event that you become unable to do so through mental capacity or serious illness. An attorney can also be involved in the decisions in relation to medical treatments you may wish to have, or not have, in your later life stages.
Some say the only answer is to make LPAs compulsory, however, the public guardian office’s current CEO, Alan Eccles, is pushing back. Eccles says that would remove any decision making ability and play down the autonomy of individual citizens. However, if a compulsory status isn’t the answer, something must be done. After all, many may think that the Lasting Power of Attorney simply falls to next of kin, and that just isn’t the case. Also, for example, spouses may assume that any joint bank accounts may automatically fall to them – but that isn’t necessarily true either.
My advice to clients is always this. If you set out your wishes and get them legally recognised, then that is the only way you can be certain that you will get the care and attention you want and need. It can also save any family heartache or arguments as a result.
If you would like some more advice relating to your own LPA, or you would like some help to write your will, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors for more information.