What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows your loved ones to take care of you and your finances if you become unable to do so yourself.
There are two types of LPA:
A "Property and Financial Affairs" LPA gives your Attorney the authority to deal with buying and selling your property, your bills, bank accounts and investments.
A "Health and Welfare" LPA covers decisions about health and care and even deciding where someone is to live. This can only be used if someone is incapable of dealing with such matters themselves.
An LPA ensures that, should you be unable to manage your own affairs, the people you have appointed can manage your financial life on your behalf. This can save a great deal of money and distress, and will ensure that, as a vulnerable person, your affairs will be handled correctly and quickly.
According to the Alzheimer's Society, more than 1 million people in the UK will have dementia by 2025. More than 1 in 5 people over 85 already suffer from this, with rates significantly higher amongst women than men. Accidents, strokes, brain injuries and Parkinson's disease can also affect someone's ability to make their own decisions. Handling your financial affairs can become virtually impossible, which is why charities who care for the elderly recommend everyone plans ahead. This could have the dual benefit of saving a great deal of money and easing the burden on their relatives.
If you lose mental capacity without an LPA in place, it will be necessary for your family to apply to the Court of Protection to have a deputy appointed to deal with everyday financial matters. This is a slow and very expensive process, costing thousands of pounds. If you have to use a lawyer it could cost a lot more. If you already have an LPA in place, this will not be necessary.
Joint bank, building society and business accounts can be severely restricted if ONE of the account holders loses mental capacity and there is no registered LPA in place. The 2013 British Bank Association booklet entitled "Guidance for People Wanting to Manage a Bank Account for Someone Else", states: 'If one joint account holder loses mental capacity, banks and building societies can decide whether or not to temporarily restrict the use of the account to essential transactions only'.
The restricting of a joint account has severe implications as the joint owner cannot freely withdraw what is their own money without an order from the Court of Protection. This could be devastating, especially if the joint owner has their only form of income, such as their pension, paid into this joint account.
Jack Straw, former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice said: "We all know how important it is to plan for the future. Having a Lasting Power of Attorney in place should be as common and natural as making a Will."