Dealing with money and paperwork can be difficult if you become unable to manage your own affairs for any reason, and in ill health it may be impossible.
Before that happens it might be easier to appoint a trusted representative – known as an Attorney – who can look after your finances and welfare for you should the situation arise. The Lasting Power of Attorney or LPA is a legal document which allows you to do this.
A Property and Financial Affairs LPA allows your Attorney to make decisions about your personal affairs including: collecting your income and benefits, paying your bills and selling your home if necessary.
A Health and Welfare LPA allows your Attorney to give or refuse consent to medical treatment and to decide where you live. These decisions can only be taken on your behalf when you are unable to make them for yourself, for example, if you are ill, unconscious or suffering from a condition like dementia.
If you become incapable of making decisions for yourself and have not appointed another person as an attorney, your personal affairs would become the responsibility of the Office of the Public Guardian and it may be necessary for the Court of Protection to become involved. The Court will appoint a person, (called a Deputy) to make decisions on your behalf. The major disadvantages of not having a Lasting Power of Attorney in place are firstly the possible delay in dealing with your affairs and secondly the cost of making a Deputyship application, which is likely to be much more expensive than making a Lasting Power of Attorney and registering it and there are on-going yearly costs payable to the Court of Protection. Note that it is highly unlikely that the Court will appoint a Deputy to manage your Health & Welfare affairs!
Most of us will be fortunate enough to live long lives, but we may not always be able to manage our own affairs. If you were to suffer physical or mental incapacity, an LPA could make your life much easier and less stressful for your loved ones, as well as protecting your interests.
You can give the Attorney general authority to manage all your finances, including paying your bills, signing cheques, dealing with your bank and buying or selling property and making decisions on medical treatment. However, you are free to restrict the Attorney’s powers if you wish. For example, a business owner might wish for different attorneys for their personal affairs and business affairs.
An LPA must be certified and then registered with the Court of Protection before you can receive help from the Attorney. You can continue to handle your own financial affairs if you wish, even after a Property and Affairs LPA has been signed. With a Personal Welfare LPA decisions can only be made on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself.
The Court process to register an LPA can take several months so a General Power of Attorney might be useful to appoint someone to manage your affairs until the Court completes this process.
If you are struggling to understand the importance of the LPA then please see our PDF about Lasting Power of Attorney for further details and case study.