In Your Best Interests – Lasting Power Of Attorney Explained
Let's start at the beginning... If you cannot make decisions for yourself and have done nothing about putting alternative arrangements in place, then professionals such as doctors or social workers will make decisions about your health care or your welfare in light of what they judge to be in your 'best interests'. Decisions about your property or finances can only be made by someone appointed as your Deputy by the Court of Protection. That person may be a family member but also may be an independent professional. These arrangements may not reflect your wishes and dealing with the Court of Protection is expensive and not a 'user friendly' experience for the lay person.
A better alternative... You can choose the person(s) that you would trust to make decisions for you if you cannot do so for yourself, by creating a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in which you appoint your chosen person(s) to be your attorney to deal with either health and/or welfare decisions or to deal with property and financial decisions.
An LPA is a formal legal document which appoints your attorneys to act for you and sets out any guidance, or conditions that you would want to apply to your attorneys. In order to be legally effective, an LPA must also be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. The Public Guardian is also ultimately responsible for supervision of attorneys and investigating any suspicion of abuse by attorneys.
Decisions about your property and financial affairs can include dealing with your house or other assets and your tax affairs, operating bank or building society accounts, and claiming benefits on your behalf as well as paying household bills or care fees. Decisions about health and welfare issues can include decisions about where you live and day-to-day decisions about your personal care such as your diet and dress. You can allow your attorneys to consent to or refuse medical treatment on your behalf. An LPA for health and welfare will give your attorneys the legal right to make such decisions on your behalf which would otherwise be made by professionals applying their judgment of your best interests.
Finally, you can cancel an LPA at any time - even after it has been registered with the OPG so long as you are then mentally capable of doing so.
Anyone who wants to put their affairs in order should consider having one or both types of LPA in place. It will give you peace of mind that someone that you trust is able to look after your financial affairs or make health and welfare decisions for you should the need arise
The author of this article, Peer Le Fleming, is a partner at Gardner Croft Solicitors and a Member of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners and Solicitors for the Elderly. If you would like more information on Lasting Powers of Attorney, please call Gardner Croft Solicitors on 01227 813400 and speak to a member of our Private Client Department.