As the population of the UK grows older, the number of people suffering from some sort of mental or physical incapacity continues to rise. According to research by the Alzheimer’s Society, the number of people with dementia is set to increase from 950,000 in 2019 to 1.6 million in 2040.
The unfortunate result is that more and more of us are unable to carry out what are often everyday but nonetheless vital physical or mental tasks, including dealing with the bank, HMRC, pensions administrators or medical providers.
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that lets you (the donor) appoint one or as many people you want – known as attorneys, who can help you make decisions, or make decisions on your behalf if your mental or physical capacity is substantially impaired.
There are two types of lasting power of attorney;
- Lasting power of attorney (LPA) for property and financial affairs
- LPA for health and welfare.
For more details on LPA and the two different types of LPA, please refer to the article by Courtiers Head of Corporate Clients, Sagar Dholiwar.
Graeme Clark, Head of Private Clients at Courtiers, says that over the years he’s seen an increase in the number of clients utilising LPA, particularly when it comes to decisions about care.
According to Graeme, in most cases a husband or wife appoints their spouse as an attorney, although appointing lineal descendants (children or grandchildren) or siblings is also common.
With the population of the UK continuing to rise and growing numbers of people needing help to make life decisions, it’s more important than ever to understand the legal powers granted by LPA.
Lasting Power of Attorney – Practical Considerations
When granting lasting power of attorney, many people choose a family member or a trusted friend and while this is understandable, having lasting power of attorney is a responsible position and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.
Based on my experiences of having LPA for a member of my own family and having been an attorney for several years, here are my main learnings:
|· If you agree to take up a position as an attorney don’t delay. Not only might the donor become incapacitated sooner than expected, but registering a LPA can take several months (up to 20 weeks according to www.gov.uk).
· You will probably need to appoint a solicitor. If you don’t have a solicitor you will have to deal with a government department, the Office of the Public Guardian yourself. The cost of registering an LPA is currently £82 (£164 for registering both types of LPA)
· Make sure you fully understand your obligations and legal responsibilities.
· Check to ensure you have enough time and are sufficiently organised to deal with a range of people, situations and organisations. These may include banks, government departments, pensions administrators, solicitors, doctors, councils, medical services, social services and myriad others.
· Before taking up a position as an attorney for financial & property affairs in particular, ask yourself whether you are financially literate enough to understand someone else’s finances, which can be complex, time-consuming and involved.
· Be prepared to accommodate inconsistencies in dealing with different organisations, which may have varying levels of understanding or different approaches and timescales in dealing with matters surrounding LPA.
· When asked for proof of LPA, some organisations may insist that they see an original copy of the LPA documents. However, others may be happy to accept photocopies, or a scanned version.
· Be aware that whereas you can only help someone with their health and welfare once they do not have mental capacity, a person who has LPA for property & financial affairs can start acting on the donor’s behalf at any time.
· Some solicitors will insist on holding onto the original LPA and may even try to ration the number of spare copies that they let you have at any one time.
· Each copy of the original LPA document that the solicitor sends you has to be signed by one of their solicitors. You can expect to expect to pay around £25 for each document.
· If you are appointed as a joint attorney with someone else, it is important that you get on with them. If you are unlikely to see eye to eye, then it’s probably best to decline, as where joint attorneys fail to agree the Lasting Power of Attorney fails.
Graeme agrees that having LPA for someone else’s property & financial affairs “is quite a responsibility.”
“You need to make sure you understand the donor’s needs,” he advises. And he warns that although there are advantages in family members being granted lasting power of attorney, “there’s an emotional attachment, which can make it quite difficult.”