The Importance of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)
Kate Garraway’s heart-breaking story of her husband Derek’s year-long battle with Covid has been made even more complicated by the lack of legal protection she and Derek had in place. Kate was unable to access funds to manage her husband’s care or refinance her mortgage. She did not even have the legal right to see his medical notes, owing to data protection. Unfortunately, Kate’s position is all too common.
Research by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) show that 65% of us think our “next of kin” will make medical and care decisions for us if we are no longer able to. In reality, this is not the case unless a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney is in place.
Married couples often think that their spouse or civil partner will be able to make decisions if they are not able to do so themselves. Similarly, parents, on behalf of their children who are unmarried (but over the age of 18) also believe that they will be able to make decisions if their child is unable to do so.
The vast majority of clients we see worry about loss of capacity as result of dementia; however, loss of capacity can be caused by a wide variety of triggering events: stroke, an accident, and as we have seen over last year or so, illness such as Covid-19. The only way for you to choose who can make decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so, is by appointing an Attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). Whilst LPAs can be prepared online, the online forms do not provide advice although they do provide some guidance as to how the forms should be completed. The use of specialist lawyers experienced and trained to support you to make these crucial, complex and difficult decisions is all the more important. According to research by Which? 22,000 LPAs are rejected every year, no doubt the vast majority as a result of not having been completed correctly.
All the private client team at Longmores, and in particular the Older and Vulnerable Client team have been specially trained to advise clients in relation to the options available so that the LPA is not just legally valid, but works in the way that you want it to work.
The only option if someone does not have an LPA is to apply to the Court of Protection for an order to be appointed as their deputy. Deputyships for Property and Financial Affairs can often take 10-12 months before an order is received. Deputyships in relation to Health and Welfare matters are generally quite rare and can often take even longer with 15-18 months not being uncommon.
It is a good idea to think of LPAs as an insurance policy which is called upon when needed, if it is needed at all.
Here to Help
If you would like advice on LPAs then get in touch with Charles Fraser, Senior Solicitor and Head of the Older and Vulnerable Client team.