Are you familiar with a lasting power of attorney?

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A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) gives another individual the legal authority to look after specific aspects of your affairs, should you lose the capacity to do so. There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney, one relating to health and welfare matters and one about property and financial affairs. When appointing someone to have lasting power of attorney, you can choose to make that person (or more than one person) have the LPA power and responsibility in one or both areas.

LPA responsibility about health and welfare matters typically relate to decisions about medical care, support at home for someone’s daily routine – eating, dressing, etc., moving into a care home or the refusal of life-sustaining treatment. In relation to financial matters, the LPA responsibility can cover aspects such as paying bills, collecting benefits, running a bank account, investing money or selling your home. A key difference is that a property and financial affairs LPA can be used while the person still has capacity, whereas a personal welfare LPA can only be used once they have lost it.

LPAs are recognised by care homes and local authorities, as well as tax, benefits and pension authorities and by financial institutions, although these latter bodies don’t always respond that positively to addressing LPA issues. LPAs are legal documents that can be set up relatively cheaply, with or without the help of a solicitor. Without the help of a solicitor, registration can take up to three months and cost £130 per LPA, with reductions for people with low income. You could also consider having one alongside your will. They were introduced in October 2007, replacing the previous system of enduring powers of attorney (EPA) – although an EPA created before October 2007 remains valid.

You may choose anyone you trust as your attorney, provided that they are over 18, not bankrupt and they are willing to take on the role. An LPA conveys a serious legal responsibility, and is the duty of the holder(s) to make all decisions in your best interests. They must follow certain principles set out in the Mental Capacity Act aimed at making sure you are encouraged to make your own decisions where possible. As the donor, you can restrict or specify the types of decisions the attorney can make, or you can allow them to make all decisions on your behalf.

To protect your interests, an LPA must be signed by a certificate provider – a solicitor or someone else of your choosing – who certifies that you understand the LPA and have not been pressurised into signing it. You could choose close friends or relatives (other than your chosen attorneys) who must be formally told that you are setting up an LPA and given the opportunity to raise any concerns.

There has recently been much in the media about setting up an LPA. It’s not just for the elderly; younger people may become incapacitated through accident or illness and without an LPA in place, relatives may face long delays and expense in applying to the Court of Protection to get access and take control of assets and finances. If you decide to use a solicitor in setting up an LPA, there will additional charges for their services and the cost can vary considerably. Talk to us if you would like further information about any aspect of this article.