How to look after someone’s health & welfare when you cannot be with them
During the current COVID-19 pandemic Lasting Powers of Attorney have become even more important. When relatives have been separated from loved ones and those they care for, either due to self-isolating or hospital or care home admissions, being able to still make decisions in that person’s best interests can provide some comfort and stop an already stressful and difficult situation from becoming more so.
There are two different types of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and the one that can be particularly useful in the current crisis is the Health and Welfare LPA.
Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney
This LPA allows the person making it (the donor) to appoint up to four Attorneys to make decisions for them should they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves, i.e. if they lose mental capacity. The Attorneys can then make important decisions regarding that person’s medical care and treatment, be involved in decisions about where they should live and, depending on how the LPA has been drafted, they could give or refuse consent to life sustaining treatment on that person’s behalf.
The LPA can only be used once registered and therefore we would recommend that it is registered once signed.
Once it is in place the LPA enables the Attorneys to step in and make decisions for the person who made it as if they were them. This gives them control and input over decisions being made about treatment and care which they otherwise may not have.
Appointing people that you trust is the most important decision when making LPAs as these people will be making important decisions on your behalf and we recommend that you have ongoing discussions with them about your wishes and what you would want to happen should you lose mental capacity but need medical or other care. They will then be well placed to make decisions in your best interests on your behalf.
Property & Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney
The second type of LPA is the Property and Financial Affairs LPA. This can be very important when someone has gone into hospital or care and bills need paying but they cannot do this themselves. With this LPA you can appoint Attorneys to make decisions regarding your financial affairs, including paying bills, dealing with bank accounts and even selling property. You can decide whether the Attorneys should be able to make decisions as soon as the LPA is registered and you give permission, or only if you lose mental capacity. The first option can be useful, particularly if mobility is becoming an issue, but again we emphasise to clients how important it is that they only appoint Attorneys that they trust as the Attorneys will have access to their finances.
It is very important that these LPAs are drafted properly to ensure that your Attorneys will be able to deal with all your finances should the need arise and therefore getting them drafted by a legal professional is recommended.
What happens if decisions need to be made but there are not any LPAs?
LPAs can only be made by someone who has mental capacity. Unfortunately we too often see situations where LPAs were not taken out in time and are not an option. In these situations we are able to help with applications to the Court of Protection for a Deputy to be appointed. However this is not ideal as such applications are expensive (the court application fee alone is £385), take a long time and almost always happen at a time of crisis.
Perhaps most importantly, when you have made LPAs you know that the people you trust and have chosen will step in should you lose mental capacity.
If you would like further information or to speak to our Wills, Trusts & Probate team about making Lasting Powers of Attorney or any other issue to do with managing your personal affairs please contact our Wills, Trusts & Probate team on 01733 882800 or email [email protected].
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