Plan for the future with Lasting Powers of Attorney
Fri 29th April 20160
Do you know what would happen if you were to become mentally incapacitated? Do you worry about your personal health and welfare or finances if you can’t make your own decisions?
Unfortunately, many people find themselves in this position, either through illness, old age or a sudden catastrophic accident. Only then do their relatives discover how difficult it is for them to take care of a loved one in the way the family member would have wished.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you were to make a Lasting Power of Attorney while you are still able to make your own decisions, then you can be certain that your wishes will be adhered to as someone you trust will have the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) help and support you to stay in control of decisions important to you in the future. Making an LPA can ensure your healthcare decisions are carried out, guard against financial abuse and let the people you trust and who know your wishes be involved and consulted about your care.
If you lose mental capacity to make financial decisions for yourself and don’t have a power of attorney, it can be a more complicated and costly process for the people you may have wished, such as your family and loved ones, to manage your finances on your behalf in the future.
Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and Chair of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s imperative to make a Lasting Power of Attorney sooner rather than later, as LPAs can only be made while you still have mental capacity.
“Once you lose mental capacity, you will not be able to make a Lasting Power of Attorney and choose who deals with your affairs. Instead, your family members or friends will have to apply for deputyship through the Court of Protection. This may take more than eight months and can become very costly.
“Having an LPA can also help inform those delivering care what your decisions and wishes are if there comes a time when you are no longer able to make or express them yourself. To safeguard your wishes, and protect your family or friends, LPAs make it clear in law who is the decision maker about financial or health and care decisions.”
There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney:
• Health and Welfare LPA – this allows your chosen attorney to make decisions about your health care, including, for example, significant decisions about where you live, the medical treatment you receive and more day-to-day decisions on what you eat and what you wear
• Property and Financial Affairs LPA – your attorney takes decisions on your behalf about money matters. They would be empowered to make decisions on buying and selling your property, running your bank accounts, dealing with your bills and state benefits and investing your money
A key difference is that, if you wish, a property and financial affairs LPA can be used while someone still has capacity, while a health and welfare LPA can only be used once they have lost that capacity.
You can choose one or more attorneys so long as they are age 18 or over, not bankrupt and willing to take on this serious responsibility.
The Mental Capacity Act became law in 2007, and CCGs are required to abide by it when commissioning care. When treating a patient, unless the situation is too urgent, medical and health staff must try to find out if a welfare LPA is in place and discuss options for care with your attorney, for their decision.
This may include life-sustaining treatment where you have specified this in your LPA. You can support health and social care staff with this by making it known to friends and family who your attorney is and where a registered copy is kept.
Telling your GP and local hospital is also important so that a copy can be recorded on your record. Where an attorney is known about and staff ignore them in decision-making, your attorney can take legal action and challenge these decisions in the court.