Setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a must in today's society. But despite this, many people do not have anything in place should the worst happen and they need someone to step in and manage their finances and well being for them.
A Power of Attorney is a document that allows someone you nominate to step in and manage your finances should you not be mentally capable of doing so.
Losing our capacity is not something any of us like to consider a possibility, however it is something that can happen to anyone and we should all be prepared. A few cost effective actions now can save a great deal of time, expense and emotional upset at a later date. As if you lose your capacity without having a LPA in place then your next of kin will have to go down the route of obtaining a guardianship which is a long and very expensive process.
Again, despite this being basic fact many people still make excuses not to put a Power of Attorney in place.
Some of the excuses that I have heard include:
I'm to young to need a Lasting Power of Attorney, those are for old people.
No, they are not, you're never to young to need a LPA. When people think of losing capacity most of us think of elderly people with dementia, however losing capacity is not something that just happens to the elderly, and there are other ways besides dementia to lose our capacity. There are many ways to lose your mental capacity, an illness, a road traffic accident, a medical accident/negligence, or an assault are just some of the unfortunate events that can lead to a loss of capacity and these can happen at any age.
Lasting Powers of attorney give to much power to other people
No, attorneys cannot do whatever they like. You nominate your attorneys and hopefully that means you would nominate someone you would trust, and if you fall out or have a mishap in the meantime you can amend your Power of Attorney anytime before it is registered. You can also set limits on what your attorneys can and cannot do in the document. If you don't want them to be able to sell your home for instance then you can stipulate that. As well as you having control of what the attorneys can and cannot do via the document you sign, the attorneys are also bound by laws to always act in your best interest and there are repercussions if they fail to do this.
If I make a Lasting Power of Attorney I have to register it right now, I'll wait until it is needed.
No, it is entirely possible to write and sign a LPA but keep hold of it until you want to use it. This is because in order for a LPA to be used it must be registered, until it is registered it is just a piece of paper. So, you can make one when you are in your 30's and not register it until you need it in your 70's. Waiting until the LPA is needed is very dangerous, as you cannot make a power of attorney when you have lost capacity
In order to make a power of attorney the person making it must have capacity. They must be able to understand and agree to and what they are signing.
A Lasting Power of Attorney doesn't last forever so what's the point
There are different types of power of attorney, LPA are permanent, but an Ordinary power of attorney is not. An ordinary Power of Attorney is a document that you can set up to allow someone to look after your affairs while you are not able to, if for example you are out of the country, or unable to leave the house, or are in hospital for a while. This document gives someone else authority to act on your behalf. It is only valid while you still have mental capacity to make your own decisions about your finances. You can limit the power you give to your attorney so that they can only deal with certain assets, for example, your bank account but not your home.
I can only have one attorney and I don't want to choose, it will cause fights in the family
No, you can have more than one attorney. The role of attorney is difficult at times and there is a lot of responsibility. So you can spread that about by having more than one attorney. This is called a joint attorney. You can appoint any number of attorneys in the same lasting power and you can specify if they can act on their own separately or if they must act jointly and come together. You can have them act jointly on some issues such as sale of property but have them act singly on all other issues there is a lot of flexibility and it is entirely up to you.
It's too expensive to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney
It might have been expensive at one point in the past but these days it really isn't. you can hire a solicitor to do this for you at a fixed fee, usually a couple of hundred pounds. Or you can have a go at it yourself using the government website which guides you through the process by asking you basic questions and completing the form on your behalf. It then provides you with instructions on how to sign the document to make it compliant with the regulations.
As you will have noticed the excuses people have for avoiding a LPA are simply untrue. The majority of people do not have a LPA waiting in the wings simply because it is one of those jobs that is often put aside for later, dismissed as unnecessary or considered too expensive.
You should now have a much clearer understanding of why a Lasting Power of Attorney is essential.