Over the last few months, my colleagues and I have received an increasing number of enquiries about ‘Lasting Power of Attorneys’ or ‘LPA’s and an important issue has become very clear - the matter of timing.
An LPA enables you to set up a document that appoints another person aged 18 or over to act on your behalf and make decisions for you if you lose the ability to manage your affairs. LPAs need to be put in place well before they are ever needed, i.e. prior to the person who is in need of assistance becoming ill and/or losing their mental capacity.
I have become more and more aware of this following various individual cases that were all too late to execute an LPA. Each person we spoke to thought they could set up an LPA themselves and didn’t realise it has to be requested, agreed and authorised by the person in need of it. Whilst we were able to assist them with ‘Deputyship’ at court, this is a much more expensive and lengthy process, even spouses will need to obtain deputyship in most cases.
These cases involve both young and older people as I hope the following two examples convey. One young husband and father had gone to hospital for tests during which they discovered that he had a serious illness and he was admitted to intensive care. Most of the family’s finances were in his name, so the man’s brother contacted us to try and take responsibility and look after the wife and children who were in a state of shock. We had to tell him it was simply not possible and when we explained the length of time a Deputyship could take, the brother was at a loss of what to do in the interim.
By contrast, on the same day an 88 year old man looking after his wife who was suffering from Alzheimers contacted us wanting an LPA in order to manage the finances she was responsible for. We had to tell him the same thing - that it couldn’t be done - and waiting for a Deputyship in this particular case seemed to be a very unrealistic solution to his problems. In cases where a person is diagnosed with the earliest stages of any dementia such as Alzheimers and hasn’t already done so, they should do an LPA immediately.
I know that is never pleasant to think of scenarios when you may not be able to manage your own affairs, but the way I put it to people is that it is just a couple of hours to secure your future and that of your loved ones for the rest of your life. You may never think your house will burn down, but I bet you still have buildings insurance just in case!