Understanding Lasting Powers of Attorney
Dealing with an LPA? They’ve got some bad press recently. Allow us to shed some light on what can be a murky legal area.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
The press has recently been riddled with various horror stories on the topic of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) and their misuse. Families torn apart by overriding decisions about a loved one’s final wishes, trust issues, miscarriages of expectations…all caused, we feel, by a solid misunderstanding of the facts. In an effort to enlighten, here’s a few key points that everyone should know about LPA and a little bit about how they can be an important safeguard for you and your family.
What are LPA?
Applications for LPA have soared as the population ages. Almost 771,000 were granted last year, up from 72,000 a decade ago. There are two types of LPA, one covering health and welfare and the other covering property and financial affairs. You can see the full breakdown of both here.
But in a nutshell…
Health And Welfare LPA
Used to give an attorney the power to make decisions about things like:
- Your daily routine – washing, dressing, eating etc
- Your medical care
- When to move into a care home
- Life-sustaining treatment
Property And Financial Affairs Lasting Power Of Attorney
Used to give your attorney the power to make decisions about your money and property. Things like:
- Managing your bank or building society
- Collecting your benefits or pension
- Paying your bills
- Selling your home
It is essential that, when making an LPA, the person making the document understands the authority they are granting to an attorney and what this means. Education is really, really crucial. You can’t know too much on the subject.
Know what you’re signing
If we have doubts over a client’s mental or physical state (eyesight, for example) at the time of making the LPA, then we’ll always obtain a doctor’s letter or, if necessary, the doctor can act as certificate provider. This is particularly important for clients with poor eyesight – if they can’t read the document clearly, they don’t know what they’re signing (always, always know what you’re signing).
LPA were initially designed for those who feel they no longer have the capacity to manage their lives. Additionally, an LPA might be used by those who are abroad and want to authorise someone to look after their affairs for a certain period of time.
Disputes over LPA
In the last decade, there’s definitely been an increase in disputes and cases against attorneys acting under an LPA. If such a situation arises, then the Office of the Public Guardian (the government agency that investigates cases of LPA abuse) always investigate. In fact, a Lasting Power of Attorney can only be used once it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. Family members can be notified when the LPA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, so that someone other than your attorney knows that this document has been registered.
It is, of course, easier now for clients to make applications online in relation to LPAs and there is no requirement to tell others they have done so. It may be for personal reasons, an effort to save the hurt feelings of an expectant family member, for example. Like with most legal matters that concern family matters, LPA can cause all manner of disappointment.
Stay in control
Many are not aware of the far-reaching powers these documents have and what they empower an attorney to do. However, you are able to place restrictions on the power if you wish. An attorney does not have to file annual accounts or reports with the Office of the Public Guardian and their actions are not scrutinised unless someone makes a complaint, by which time thousands of pounds could have been misspent.
The alternative to an LPA is something called a “Deputyship Application”. A “Deputy” is appointed when a person does not have the mental capacity to choose an attorney and is required to prepare accounts and submit a report to the Office of the Public Guardian every year. The Office of the Public Guardian might one day decide that attorneys should do the same. This would naturally incur further administrative responsibilities, but this would perhaps be no bad thing.
If the appropriate notices are given, there is no reason not to make a Lasting Power of Attorney as it could save thousands of pounds in making a Deputyship application. We do advise clients to make these documents as an insurance for the future.
On balance, there are many more advantages to having in place Lasting Powers of Attorney rather than take a “wait and see” approach. Clients will often admit to a sense of reassurance and peace of mind when they have completed LPA and it can save much worry and anxiety for their family.
For more information on this issue, please contact Deborah Adams, Director of Private Client Services at Parnalls Solicitors on 01566 772375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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