Another pair of hands
Most people have heard of powers of attorney but not many realise quite how important they are.
Powers of attorney were brought to the nation’s notice in 2007 when Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs) were replaced by Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). Although EPAs made before October 2007 remain valid it has only been possible to make LPAs since then, and people have been put off LPAs because of the length of the documents and potential cost of making and registering them. There are other types of powers of attorney as well as EPAs and LPAs but as these are the most common types I will concentrate on them
- What is an LPA?
LPAs come in two forms. They are documents by which you can give power to someone else, either to make decisions as to health and welfare issues or with regards to financial matters. Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 decisions taken by the attorney (the person to whom power has been given) must be made in conjunction with the person making the LPA (the donor) whilst the donor still has his or her mental capacity. The LPA does not take power away from the donor but rather gives the donor another pair of hands to be able to deal with their affairs.
If the donor loses mental capacity then the attorney has more influence on how to deal with the donor’s assets or welfare.
- Why make an LPA?
Simple really. It means that you have someone already in place in case you are unable to look after your finances or make decisions relating to your health and welfare, be it through mental or physical health problems. It is always wisest to make an LPA now in case you need to use it in the future – if you do not have an LPA in place and you need someone to deal with, say, your bills and accounts urgently then if you have your marbles it could take several months for the LPA to be drawn up, signed and then registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before the attorney can use it.
If your marbles have, sadly, rolled away then your nearest and dearest will have to go down the route of applying to the Court of Protection to have a deputy appointed to look after your finances and that can take many months and is a more expensive and lengthier procedure than completing an LPA.
- How tricky is it to make an LPA?
The forms are not as straightforward as EPAs were. However, with guidance the bulk of the forms can be completed quickly; it tends to be the signing of the forms which needs most care and consideration. Once an LPA has been signed properly the donor or attorney must then register it with the OPG before it can be used.
As I said at the beginning, LPAs (and EPAs) are very important and useful documents. They save a lot of time and heartache for families where a donor’s health deteriorates and help is needed to keep sailing a straight and stress-free course through the seas of financial and welfare issues.