Recent statistics around the number of new Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) registrations in the UK have highlighted the growing need for people to consider organising their health and financial affairs proactively.
In 2020-21, 695,000 LPAs were registered, compared to 909,000 registered the year before. This significant fall in application numbers is thought to be directly linked to the COVID pandemic and the number of people social distancing and shielding during large parts of the last 18 months.
Obviously, this is a concern as older members of society and those with existing health concerns are more likely to need to enact a Lasting Power of Attorney.
With this in mind, we look at some of the key benefits of having Lasting Powers of Attorney in place.
Make your own choice of Attorney.
The only option for taking control of financial affairs after the point of capacity loss is for an application to the Court of Protection to be made. During this process, the Court will appoint a ‘deputy’, which might not be who the individual concerned would have chosen for this role.
By having your own LPAs drafted, you can make your own choice of the person/people in your life who you feel would make the best decisions concerning your finances and welfare matters. You can appoint different attorneys for different aspects of your life – for example, you might want a family member with a strong financial head to look after your financial affairs but someone else altogether to be appointed as your health and welfare attorney.
Once you have appointed attorneys, you may wish to discuss some of the decisions that may need to be taken in the future with them and what direction you would like these to take.
Reduce stress at a difficult time.
Seeing a relative lose mental capacity is distressing and upsetting for family members to witness. Having the added factor of trying to navigate complex legal procedures, such as applying to the Court of Protection, can make matters worse. An application to the Court of Protection can take 2 or 3 months to be processed and for someone to be appointed as Deputy. Therefore, there can be a significant gap where your family may be unable to access your accounts or make important decisions.
A registered Lasting Power of Attorney allows for continuity as it can be enacted as soon as it is required, providing comfort for those involved at a difficult time.
Plan for the future together.
A Lasting Power of Attorney for finances is valid as soon as it has been registered with the Office of Public Guardian. This means that other family members can undertake actions regarding financial affairs, with your consent, whilst you still have capacity. For some elderly or more vulnerable people, reducing the burden of managing their financial affairs themselves can be a great comfort. It can also allow for important decisions and actions to be taken that might otherwise have been put off, which could lead to better outcomes.
We already know that less than 1% of the adult population has an LPA in place (statistics from the Office of the Public Guardian).
Sadly, one tragic consequence of the Covid pandemic is that many people will have emerged in a poorer state of health, either directly as a result of suffering from long COVID or due to delayed treatment or access to medical advice. The importance of planning ahead is, therefore, more important than ever.
Jill Waddington is a solicitor specialising in private client law at O’Donnell Solicitors. Please contact Jill Waddington on 01457 761320 to arrange a convenient appointment to discuss LPAs or any aspect of planning for your future.