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BLOG: Lasting Powers of Attorney – Should you make one?

Lois Williams, Family Paralegal

The national lockdown has seen us all become subject to significant restrictions in our daily living. Many are in the most vulnerable category, meaning they are at risk of becoming very ill and in order to prevent this from happening, are unable to leave the house even for essentials.

Understandably, this may cause anxieties as to who would be able to make decisions on your behalf and manage your finances should you become unwell and/or unable to make those decisions for yourself. Self-isolation may also bring some practical difficulties such as being unable to get to the bank or being unable or simply not up to dealing with finances yourself.

Having Attorneys appointed to deal with these matters may go some way to ease some of those anxieties and provide you with practical help during these uncertain times.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney or LPA is a legal document in which an individual (the donor) gives one or more others (the attorneys) the power to assist them with managing their affairs and/or to make decisions on their behalf should they lose the capacity to do themselves.

There are two types of LPA and the donor may prepare one or both types providing they have the capacity to do so.

Before it can be used, the LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) which is a government office that keeps a register of LPAs and investigates any complaints against attorneys.

LPA – Health and Welfare Decisions

This LPA can only be used once the donor has lost capacity, due to physical or mental illness or injury, to make health and welfare decisions for themselves. *

It allows the Attorneys to make decisions on behalf and in the best interests of, the donor. Including; where the donor should live, whether to give or refuse consent to medical treatments and who is able to visit the donor.

There is also an option for the donor to give the power to their attorneys to refuse or consent to life sustaining treatment.

Specific benefits of this document during the Coronavirus outbreak include; having a plan with your attorneys that reflects your specific wishes so that the right decisions are made for you should you become unwell.

LPA – Property and Financial Affairs

The donor can choose whether this LPA can be used as soon as it is registered with the OPG or whether it can only be used once they have lost capacity to make decisions for themselves. If the donor gives the attorneys the power to use the document as soon as it has been registered, then the attorneys must only do as you ask.

The document gives the attorney the power to assist in the management of financial affairs and make decisions such as; managing bank accounts and investment portfolios, buying and selling property and claiming benefits.

Specific benefits of this document during the Coronavirus outbreak include; having someone who is able to assist with the practical difficulties of not being able to leave the house or if you become unwell, such as; withdrawing or banking money, dealing with utility companies, managing property and claiming or making changes to your benefits. The document will also allow your Attorneys to manage your financial affairs should you become so unwell that you no longer have capacity to make those decisions for yourself.

Who Can be an Attorney?

Your attorney(s) must be over the age of 18 and willing to act as such. They should be someone you trust and who understands your wishes.

You can appoint one or more attorneys, but it would be prudent to appoint more than one or have a replacement in the event that one is unable to act.

Most people will choose relatives or close friends to act as their attorneys however you may appoint a professional such as a solicitor or an accountant to act if you so wish.

You may appoint the same or different attorneys for each type of LPA. It is important to consider if the person(s) appointed have the necessary skills for the role.

A Power of Attorney should be thought of as a method of forward planning or an insurance policy. It may not totally ease the worries of these uncertain times, but it may provide some peace of mind.

 

*It is important to note that your attorneys will need to provide proof that you have lost capacity before they are able to use the document.

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