Dementia and other forms of mental impairment are increasingly common as our population ages but many people are unprepared for the effects it can have on their lives.
Although it is not a comfortable topic, it is worth thinking about now so that if something happens and you cannot make your own decisions, a trusted relative or friend can make them for you without having to go through a lengthy court process.
A lasting power of attorney is usually appropriate for people concerned about having diminished responsibility at some point in the future. This is not the same as an ordinary power of attorney which can be used for a wide range of purposes at any time but is automatically revoked if the donor loses mental capacity.
It is important to note that a lasting power of attorney does not mean that you immediately lose control of your affairs.
Creating a Lasting Power of Attorney
Elderly people or seriously ill patients who still have capacity may decide that they would like to grant powers over their affairs to a person they trust to manage them on their behalf if they become unable to do so themselves. In this case the ‘donor’ will need to enter into a lasting power of attorney to appoint that person as their ‘attorney’. A lasting power of attorney can only be made by people over the age of 18 who do not have diminished mental capacity.
After you have chosen your attorney you will need to have the prescribed forms completed. Once the forms are completed you must register the power of attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian before it will be effective. If you are unsure about any of this, you should seek advice from your solicitor.
Types of Lasting Powers of Attorney
There are two types of lasting power of attorney: i) Health and Welfare and ii) Property and Financial Affairs.
· Health and Welfare – this can only be used if you become incapable of making decisions yourself and it deals with decisions about:
- Daily life
- Entering a care home
- Medical treatment
- Property and Financial Affairs – this can be used as soon as it is registered if you give your permission and deals with decisions such as:
- Managing day to day finances
- Buying or selling property
Anyone who fears suffering from diminished mental capacity in the future can benefit from a lasting power of attorney. Clearly it has greatest relevance to the elderly or those already aware of the early signs of conditions such as Alzheimer’s but younger people can sometimes need another person to make decisions for them, if they are suffering from a degenerating illness, for example.
Setting up a lasting power of attorney is relatively inexpensive and a simple and sensible precaution compared to the alternative – becoming a ‘deputy’ through the Court of Protection. Once a person has lost their mental capacity it is too late to create a lasting power of attorney.