Lasting Powers of Attorney - What are they - and do you need one?

Powers of Attorney are registered and regulated by The Office of Public Guardian (the OPG).  They found that....

..."nearly 75 percent of people think that their partners or close family members can automatically make decisions for them if they’re not able to. As next of kin, many people expect that making medical decisions or future planning for loved ones is straightforward"

They go on to say "This is not true; only an LPA gives you the legal ability to give those you trust the power to make decisions on your behalf if you lose mental capacity"

The OPG also warn that:   "If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you may have assumed that your spouse would automatically be able to deal with your bank account and pensions, and make decisions about your healthcare, if you lose the ability to do so. This is not the case. Without an LPA, they won’t have the authority"

So what is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are documents that allow someone of your choice to help manage your finances or make important decisions about your healthcare if at any stage you cannot, or if you chose not to. They give your Attorney the power to make those decisions as if they were you. 

There is a misconception that LPAs are only for the elderly, or are useful only when illnesses such a dementia strike.  They do, of course, prove to be essential at those times but their use can be so much wider. Loss of capacity can happen to anyone, at any time. In the event of an accident you may be temporarily or permanently unable to manage details of life and knowing you have put in place someone to assist can be a huge relief - for you and your family.  Alternatively, you may just find some tasks difficult, such as speaking to utility companies over the telephone if you are struggling with hearing. 

There are two types of LPA: :

  • LPA for financial decisions
  • LPA for health and care decisions.

LPA for financial decisions

An LPA for financial decisions can be used while you still have mental capacity if you simply chose to have your Attorney assist you. This means that when life means that simple tasks, like calling about utilities, or popping to the bank, have become  difficult, you can ask your attorney to help out and they will have the authority to do so. Alternatively you can state that you only want it to come into force if you do lose capacity.   An LPA for financial decisions can cover things such as:

  • taking cash out for you
  • buying and selling property
  • paying the mortgage
  • investing money
  • paying bills
  • Sorting out and paying for repairs to property, cars etc

You can restrict the types of decisions your attorney can make, or let them make all decisions on your behalf. If you are setting up an LPA for financial decisions, your attorney must keep accounts and make sure their money is kept separate from yours. You can ask for regular details of how much is spent and how much money you have.  You can withdraw an LPA at any time so long as you still have mental capacity. 

LPA for health and care decisions

This covers health and care decisions and can only be used once you have lost mental capacity. An attorney can generally make decisions about things such as:

  • where you should live
  • your medical care and decision on treatment
  • what you should eat
  • who you should have contact with
  • what kind of social activities you should take part in.

You can also give special permission for your attorney to make decisions about life-saving treatment. 

Make an appointment to see me, or talk over the phone and I can explain more about LPAs and when they can be useful in your situation.