Uncovering the truth about Lasting Powers of Attorney
Recent figures released by the Ministry of Justice and the Office of Public Guardian have revealed that applications for Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) have surged in recent years. Last year almost 771,000 were granted, with around 3.5 million in place today. Over 3,000 LPA applications are received every day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Office of Public Guardian has warned that the number of investigations into cases of LPA misuse have also increased.
David Whitworth, Partner and specialist solicitor, reminds us of the benefits of an LPA and the steps you can take to minimise the risk of financial abuse from an attorney.
Of course, no one wants to think about a point in their lifetime when they lose mental capacity; but unfortunately it happens to thousands of people – young and old - every day, due to accidents, strokes, illnesses or degenerative conditions, such as dementia.
While many people assume that should the worst happen, family members will step in to manage their finances and assets, it is not as straightforward as that. In fact, government agencies and financial organisations will not deal with loved ones or friends without the proper legal authority and in some cases, accounts can even be frozen so that certain parties cannot access funds.
LPAs offer a simple, powerful and effective legal solution to this problem, allowing you to appoint one or more people (known as attorneys) to help you make, or to make decisions on your behalf, should there come a time where you are not able to do so yourself.
There are several benefits of having an LPA in place:
- It can be reassuring to know that if you are unable to make a decision for yourself in the future, the person you choose will make these decisions for you
- Making an LPA ensures that the person you want to make decisions for you will be able to do so. This prevents a stranger, or someone you may not trust, from having this power
- Making an LPA now will make things easier for your family and friends in future. It will be more expensive, difficult and time-consuming for them to get the authority to act on your behalf when you are not able to give it
- Making an LPA can start conversations with your family or others about what you want to happen in the future.
There are key steps you can take to ensure your LPA is safe, legally effective and robust as well as reduce the chances of financial abuse from an attorney. The following top tips have been developed by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) an independent, national organisation which provides specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.
Plan early – While you have capacity, it’s vital that you get your affairs in order and choose the best people to manage your affairs, in case of an accident or illness. You can’t appoint an attorney once you lose capacity.
Choose carefully– Think carefully who you want to appoint as your attorney and have an open conversation with them so they understand your wishes and what their responsibilities will include. Consider appointing more than one person as your attorney so they can share the responsibility.
Consider appointing a professional– A family member might not always be the best person to act as your attorney. Instead, you can appoint a professional such as a solicitor. They can act as a neutral third party and make unbiased decisions that are in your best interests.
Think about different circumstances– Consider how you would like your attorney to manage your property and financial affairs in different situations. For example, are you happy for your property to be sold to pay for your care costs?
Address the difficult questions – Your attorney might have to make difficult decisions about your health and welfare. If you have specific wishes around your care plans, medical treatment, or end of life wishes, make sure you discuss this with them and make your choices clear in your document.
Seek professional advice – Shop-bought and online LPA kits may be suitable for those with very straightforward financial situations or with considerable legal experience, but for most people, seeking professional legal advice is the best way of ensuring that an LPA is effective, legally robust and safe.
Keep your plans current – Make sure you keep your LPA updated if your circumstances change. Your choices around the people you want to be responsible for your finances and wellbeing may change, such as following a marriage or divorce, when children reach adulthood, or if parents pass away.
At Mowbray Woodwards, we have an experienced, specialist team who can help you make sure your affairs are in order and that your wishes will be carried out should you lose capacity. We are proud to be members of Solicitors for the Elderly and STEP.
Over the years, we have helped thousands of people set up LPAs and benefit from the reassurance and peace of mind that comes with knowing they are legally covered should they need it and that they’ve saved their loved ones the lengthy, expensive and stressful process of making applications to the Court of Protection, if there was no LPA in place.
Our advice to our clients remains the same – an LPA that has been arranged and administered diligently and correctly, following best practice advice, is a powerful, effective legal tool that offers significant benefits for all.
If you have any questions or concerns about Lasting Powers of Attorney, please call our specialist team on 01225 485700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org