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What is a Lasting Power of Attorney and why do I need one?

lasting-power-of-attorney

Lasting Power of Attorney: 5 Reasons why clients say they don’t have them – and why they should.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf.

You can make an LPA for your health and welfare and/or your property and financial affairs. LPAs are particularly useful for making arrangements so that your affairs can be managed should you not be able deal with them yourself – for instance because you have had an accident, due to illness, or suffering from a degenerative condition. However there are other situations where they are also useful.

I recommend to all my clients who are organising their affairs or making Wills to also consider making LPAs. I’ve heard many reasons as to why clients don’t have or need LPAs.

Here are the most common reasons given as to why people think they don’t need an LPA, and the reasons why you should have one.

I have a Will so I don’t need an LPA

I hear this all the time. It is common for the two to be confused but in reality they are legal documents for very separate issues.

A Will only comes into effect when the person who made the Will dies. In their lifetime the content of the Will has no effect and may be changed at any time before their death.

An LPA is only valid during lifetime and its authority ceases when the person who made the LPA dies. The purpose of an LPA is so that you can appoint someone to manage or deal with your affairs while you are still alive. So even of you have a Will you should still consider making an LPA.

LPAs are only for people who lose mental capacity

Many believe that LPAs are only for people who are no longer mentally capable of understanding and making decisions about their affairs. While it is certainly one of the purposes for having a Lasting Power of Attorney there are other situations where it is useful.

For instance you may be physically incapable of managing your affairs, or due to physical impairment it might be much easier to appoint someone to deal with your affairs, so that you don’t have to.

You may spend considerable time abroad and not be in a position to deal with some of the day-to-day management of your affairs and having an LPA would allow someone to deal with these matters while you’re out of the country.

I’ll get one if something happens

None of us can predict the future. If you are involved in an accident which affects your ability to understand things, or makes it difficult for you to communicate, you could be in a position where you can no longer make an LPA.

You can only make an LPA while you have the ability to understand the implications of the legal document you are creating. Similarly if you suffer from a degenerative condition, by the time your condition is recognised you may no longer have the mental ability to make an LPA.

I am too young to get an LPA

Any of us could suffer from an accident which could result in one not being able to manage our own affairs.

I was involved in a climbing accident when I was 33-years-old. I broke my arm as a result of the fall but was told that if I’d landed on my head I could have suffered a brain or serious neck injury.

If I had suffered such injuries, having an LPA would have allowed my partner (and mother of my children) to access my bank account and manage my financial affairs. Without one, not only would she have had to deal with the fall out of my accident, but she would also have to apply to the courts so that she, and our children, could get access to my finances.

Also, as mentioned above, LPAs can also be used if you want to give someone authority to deal with your affairs while you are abroad. Even if you are young, you should consider the benefits of having an LPA against the consequences of not having one.

I don’t have time to sort it out

This is common, particularly with professionals who work Monday to Friday and have very little spare time.

Your first appointment to make an LPA would take around 40 minutes, so could be done in less than a lunch break. Apart from one final appointment just to sign the document, the rest of the process can usually be done in writing, on email or by telephone – so it really doesn’t take as long as you might think.

Lasting Power of Attorney: Let’s plan ahead

You should think of a Lasting Power of Attorney as similar to an insurance policy. By putting it in place you are preparing for such events which could be very difficult and even more stressful without something like this in place.

While having an LPA will not stop the upset or difficulties that come if a relative can’t manage all their affairs, it will certainly make things that bit easier to deal with.

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