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Make Your Lasting Power of Attorney or Risk More Expense Later

Author: Louise Rance

As we age, thoughts about how we might cope if we’re diagnosed with a debilitating condition can become more persistent. Suffering a physical impairment is bad enough, but when your mental health starts to fail you, it can feel overwhelming.

News reports of celebrities, such as Barbara Windsor have highlighted the importance of making arrangements should you lose mental capacity, and with the number of people being diagnosed with degenerative illnesses like dementia increasing, it’s more important than ever to make plans. You need to make sure that should anything like that happen to you, arrangements will be in place to care for your health and well being, and your finances.

This is where a lasting power of attorney comes in to its own. It’s a specifically designed legal document that allows you to select an individual to act on your behalf should you lose mental capacity due to an accident or illness. The person you choose is known as your attorney and can be anyone you like as long as they’re over the age of 18 and haven’t been declared bankrupt. When setting up a power of attorney you need to bear in mind that timing is everything; you have to be of sound mind when you do it, otherwise it won’t be valid.

Deciding who will be your attorney is key. All too often people choose their children, but this can be a terrible idea. Being an attorney is a job that comes with a great deal of responsibility, so if your children are not good at managing money or there’s a possibility they may steal from you, they’re the last person you should elect. It’s a hard decision to make, but at the end of the day, it’s your money and your welfare and they both need to be looked after by someone who will respect that.

If you prefer, you can have more than one attorney, but if they don’t see eye to eye it may end up in a conflict about what’s in your best interests. To alleviate this, you can stipulate whether they all need to agree on decisions made on your behalf or if they can act independently of each other.

Alternatively, to save any falling out or ill feeling, you may want to appoint a solicitor to act as your attorney. Of course, they’ll charge you for it, but the advantage is that they’re neutral and are accountable for any wrongdoing.

There are two types of power of attorney; one covers property and finances while the other deals with health and welfare. A property and affairs LPA allows your attorney to handle your finances, such as any property and savings you may have, paying for care fees or arranging the sale of your home if necessary. A health and welfare power of attorney addresses your personal well-being. It outlines what medical treatment you should receive, where you live and can even give your attorney the power to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf.

Whether it’s the expense or the time needed to do it, failing to make provisions like a power of attorney can cost much more than you think. In the event that you haven’t put any arrangements in place, your loved ones will need to apply for a Court of Protection to be legally responsible for you.

A Court of Protection is a specialist document which grants permission to safeguard someone who has lost the ability to look after their own affairs. It allows those who apply for it – a deputy – to make decisions about finances and welfare on your behalf if you can no longer do it yourself.

Applying for a Court of Protection can be a complex and lengthy process, which requires specialist assistance from a solicitor. The application fee to be a deputy is £400 and it takes around six months to complete. The solicitor’s fee, which is fixed by the court, is £950 + vat and a medical report can cost in the region of £150 -£250. On top of this, there are ongoing supervision charges from the Court of Protection to safeguard the vulnerable person; you. There may also be care fees to pay while the deputyship is being processed. So, when you weigh up the price of setting up a power of attorney against applying for a Court of Protection, it’s not difficult to see which is the most cost effective and least time consuming.

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