If you are unable to make decisions for yourself in the future, perhaps because you have dementia or suffered a health condition such as stroke, a loved one may need to provide care for you. That could include managing your finances as well as making important decisions about your ongoing healthcare.
Even close family members can’t do this without going through the courts to get permission, something that can be lengthy and costly to achieve. That’s where a legal agreement like a lasting power of attorney comes in.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is not just something that is required for later in life – anything could happen to any one of us at any time. It is important to consider not only how you might cope if you were unable to make decisions for yourself, but also how your family might cope if you were no longer able to manage your affairs.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal agreement that gives another person control over decision making if you no longer have the mental or physical capacity to do so yourself. The most common reason people think of for having an LPA in place is to ensure they have support when they reach old age and develop a condition such as Alzheimer’s. It’s not just about planning for old age though. Any one of us could be involved in an accident. If you have a partner or young children a Lasting Power of Attorney is especially important. It allows your trusted Attorney(s) to step in and manage your affairs while you are unable. Without an LPA your family will not be able to make any decisions regarding your care and your bank accounts will be frozen.
Types of Lasting Power of Attorney
There are two types of LPA, one that covers your health and wellbeing when you are incapacitated and another that covers your property and financial affairs. These each give the nominated person specific rights that can be detailed in the legal document.
Health and Welfare LPA
This gives your nominated attorney the legal right to make decisions about your healthcare and medical treatments. This might include them being in charge of your general care, organising home visits, collecting medication from the pharmacist or attending GP visits and the like.
In the long term, with a condition such as dementia, they may also be able to make decisions on when you should go into a nursing home or what sort of end of life care you should receive.
This LPA does not give the nominated individual the right to handle your property and financial affairs. If you want to cover this, you will need to create a separate LPA.
Property and Financial LPA
This gives your attorney full or partial control over finances and property owned by you. It can, for example, give them access to your bank account so they can pay bills or collect benefits such as a pension. It can also give them the decision making authority to sell your property should you need to go into care.
A Property and Financial LPA could also be used if you are temporarily incapacitated. If, for instance, you were in an accident or had a stroke and were unable to make decisions about your business, the LPA could be used to hand authority over to a trusted individual until you have recovered.
Unlike the Health and Welfare LPA, this can also be used while you still maintain the mental capacity to make decisions but are physically unable to.
How Do I Create a Lasting Power of Attorney?
An LPA must be put in place while you have the mental capacity to understand what you are doing. It cannot, for example, be created once someone has developed dementia and is unable to make decisions for themselves.
In both LPAs, you can set down specific areas where your Attorney(s) can make decisions and set down your wishes, for example, concerning end-of-life treatment.
An LPA doesn’t give your Attorney(s) carte blanche to do what they want. They must always act in your best interests. It’s important, of course, to choose a person you trust and to get their agreement that they are willing to look after your healthcare or finances and property should the need arise.
Because an LPA has far reaching powers it is extremely important that you seek professional advice. At MGF Wills & Estate Planning, we can help you create a Lasting Power of Attorney that protects you and your loved ones and ensures you have complete peace of mind for the future. Contact us today to find out more.
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