The Power of Attorney Bill received Royal Assent in September 2023. This means that the process of registering a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) will soon move online, which should make it quicker and easier to set one up.
According to research by Canada Life, 4 in 5 adults in the UK have not registered an LPA. Without one, if you become ill or injured, your loved ones may not have the legal authority to look after your affairs.
Even if you’re married or in a civil partnership, your partner may not be able to access your accounts or complete important financial tasks such as remortgaging, if you don’t have an LPA in place.
Read on to find out what an LPA is and why you might want to consider making one sooner rather than later.
A Lasting Power of Attorney could give you control over your health and financial matters
An LPA is a legal document that allows you to give one or more people you trust – your “attorneys” – the authority to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make them yourself.
This might be a temporary measure, for example, if you’re briefly hospitalised after an accident, or it could be part of long-term plans, such as preparing for the future if you have dementia.
Your attorneys will only assume responsibility for making decisions about your health and finances if you “lack mental capacity” to do so. According to government guidelines, this means that you are unable to do one or more of the following:
- Understand the information you need to make a decision
- Remember information for long enough to make a decision
- Weigh up your options and make a choice
- Communicate your decision.
You can only register an LPA if you have the mental capacity to do so and there are two types to consider:
- A health and welfare LPA gives your attorney or attorneys the legal authority to make decisions about matters such as medical care and whether to move you into a care home.
- A property and financial affairs LPA allows your attorney(s) to manage your money and property, for example, paying bills and selling your home.
You may choose to register one or both types of LPA.
The benefits of setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney
You can take control of your future
Registering an LPA gives you control over what happens to your health care and finances if you become unable to make decisions. And, choosing one or more people who you trust to act as attorneys could provide valuable peace of mind about the decisions that might be made on your behalf in the future.
You’re free to choose anyone who is aged 18 or over and has the mental capacity to make their own decisions to act as your attorney. They do not need to live in the UK or be a British Citizen and they could be a relative, friend, your spouse or partner, or a professional such as a solicitor.
You could also control what decisions your attorneys are authorised to make and how they make them. For example, you might choose to specify what types of medical treatment you wish to receive or how you would like to be cared for if urgent decisions are needed. Furthermore, some decisions you might request your attorneys make jointly and others separately.
Important decisions can be made quickly and with confidence
Setting up an LPA and communicating your wishes to loved ones could help to ensure that important decisions are made quickly if you become ill or have an accident.
An LPA allows you to let your family and friends know what to expect if you become unable to make your own decisions and it provides your attorneys with the authority and confidence to act fast, without the stress and uncertainty of not knowing what your wishes are.
If you do not have an LPA in place, your loved ones will need to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order to obtain the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. This involves submitting numerous documents and the process can take up to six months to complete. This could delay important decisions and cause unnecessary stress for your loved ones.
A Lasting Power of Attorney offers flexibility
Registering an LPA now does not mean that you are beholden to its contents for the rest of your life.
If you change your mind about who you want to act as attorneys, what powers you wish to give them or anything else contained in your LPA, you can ask the Office of the Public Guardian to remove the unwanted attorney. Alternatively, you could ask to revoke the existing document and create a new one, as long as you have the mental capacity to do so.
You could also choose to set up different types of LPA and appoint separate attorneys for each one. For example, if you are self-employed you might wish to register a business LPA in addition to a property and financial affairs LPA and a health and welfare LPA for personal matters.
A business LPA could reduce the disruption to your employees and customers if you become unexpectedly ill or injured.
Setting up multiple LPAs would allow you to choose, for example, a close family member as an attorney to make decisions about your health and an experienced colleague to run your business if you are unable to do so.
One significant benefit of setting up an LPA as early as possible rather than waiting until later in life is that you are better prepared if something unexpected happens. The flexibility of the LPA system allows you to plan for different areas of your life and to create a new document if your circumstances or wishes change.
However, your LPA is a legal document, and it could become invalid if you make changes to it. Consequently, it is always worth speaking to a finance professional if you decide to remove an attorney or need to make a new LPA.
Protect your wealth and take care of your family
Having a clear financial plan in place can protect your wealth in the future and ensure that your family is secure if anything happens to you.
If you don’t have an LPA in place, your carefully made financial plans could be derailed.
Giving a trusted person the authority to control your finances in line with your wishes could help keep your plans on track. For example, it could ensure that your ongoing obligations such as mortgage repayments are met.
A financial LPA also means your loved ones can access your money for everyday costs such as food and utility bills if you’re suddenly taken ill. If you’re the main breadwinner this could be especially important.
Seeking professional advice before registering your LPA could help you review your plans objectively and avoid the time and expense of having to redo your document if you make a mistake.
Get in touch
If you’re keen to take control of your future and would like some help making a Lasting Power of Attorney, we can help.
Please get in touch either by email at email@example.com or by calling 0117 9303510.
This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.