Despite its reputation, death management isn’t anywhere near as morbid or as anxiety-inducing as is often perceived – Life Ledger and others have created efficient and intuitive solutions, to help you prepare for the future and protect both yourself and your loved ones.
Of course, while we’re happy and healthy, such sombre activity seems out of place. But think about it – what would happen if you lost your mental capacity? Neither your spouse nor your relatives would be able to access your finances, and they’d have no say in the medical treatment you receive.
Naming a lasting power of attorney is the best way to safeguard yourself and your loved ones. With it, you can ensure the most important personal decisions are in the hands of someone you trust, rather than an independent third party. This way, no matter what happens, you know that everything will be managed in the way that you wish.
What is a lasting power of attorney?
Naming a lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legally binding application process, in which you name an individual who will make choices on your behalf if a physical or mental illness prevents you from being able to do so yourself.
The LPA will legally represent you and your wishes, managing your affairs, medical treatment and other important affairs.
An LPA can be anyone who you choose, but is most commonly a spouse, family member, an extremely close friend, or a legal professional.
What is the difference between an ordinary and lasting power of attorney?
An ordinary power of attorney has influence limited to the individual’s financial affairs. This is most commonly used by individuals with full mental capacity but require assistance managing their finances for a short time.
For example, an individual may have difficulty leaving the house, and so need someone to manage finances on their behalf on certain occasions (such as withdrawing money from a bank account).
The key difference with a lasting power of attorney is that it will only become enacted in the event of the individual becoming mentally incapacitated and no longer able make decisions themselves.
An LPA has a far more extensive and long-lasting influence and delivers the power to make decisions regarding the individual’s property, finances, personal and medical care.
What decisions can a lasting power of attorney make?
By choosing and naming an LPA in your will, you are declaring that you are happy for them to manage all the important legal decisions that concern you and your life on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Naturally, your LPA should be someone that you trust completely, and you know understands and will implement your wishes on your behalf.
There are two different types of LPA, which are made and named separately.
An LPA for health and care decisions will make decisions about the healthcare and medical treatment that you receive.
These decisions can involve the medication that you receive (including life-saving treatments, if this is specified by you in the LPA form), the best place for you to live, and your wider social life, such as who you can contact and the hobbies that you can continue doing.
While an LPA for financial decisions will manage your finances across a number of key areas, including your property, mortgage and bills, investments, and other day-to-day financial decisions, like property repairs.
Why is it important to name a lasting power of attorney?
There are several different reasons why you may need to create a long-term plan of this nature. For instance, if your family has a history of dementia, then you should set out this plan now, while you still have complete mental capacity.
Alternatively, if you have any dependents (such as elderly parents, young children, or any individuals that are under your care), then a lasting power of attorney can help ensure they continue to be provided for.
Furthermore, by having an LPA to take over these decisions, your loved ones won’t have to wait for the approval of the court to receive vital financial support, or to enact a change that would benefit your health and wellbeing.
If your mental capacity is lost, and you have not named an LPA, then the most likely consequence is that the Court of Protection will take over responsibility for the management of your affairs.
One of the most common misconceptions about the right to make decisions is that an individual’s spouse would do this, simply because you are married or in a civil partnership. Although it’s easy to see the foundation for this assumption, it is not accurate. If you do not specifically name them as your LPA, then your spouse will have not have automatic authority over your bank account or decisions concerning your wellbeing.
How do I name a lasting power of attorney?
To set up a power of attorney, you could take one of two routes – either contact a solicitor, or apply through the Office of the Public Guardian (who will provide you with a form to complete).
When you receive the LPA form from the Office of the Public Guardian, complete the required fields. How you choose to do this is up to you. Although it can be completed independently, you may choose to enlist the services of a solicitor, who will fill it in on your behalf. This is a great way to save time and stress, but you will have to pay for their services, so take the time to weigh up these factors.
Then, your LPA will need to be signed by a professional (this is most commonly a doctor or solicitor) who will act as your certificate provider. Finally, your LPA will need to be registered before it is declared valid, which is again done through the Office of the Public Guardian.
Although it is difficult for us to admit, none of us are going to live forever. And, should anything happen to us, we want to be certain that our wishes will be upheld.
If you are in a situation where you can no longer make key decisions independently, the best thing is to give someone you trust wholeheartedly the power to do this for you.
And that’s precisely why a lasting power of attorney is so important. They will make these critical decisions for you, while closely following your wishes and protecting any loved ones that you may be leaving behind.
By naming a lasting power of attorney now, you can ensure that, should the worst happen, your family are safe and your future is secure. There is no better way to prepare for the unknown.