It’s not pleasant thinking about a time when you may lose your mental capacity to make decisions. But with statistics from the Alzheimer’s Society suggesting that there are as many as 850,000 people suffering with dementia in the UK today, with that figure set to rise to one million by 2025, maybe losing our ability to make decisions is a possibility that we should plan for.
If you ever lose the capacity to make choices, a lasting power of attorney (LPA), formerly known as an enduring power of attorney (EPA), gives a loved one the responsibility to take control of your affairs. The control and responsibility an LPA gives someone makes the decision of who to choose as your attorney an important one.
The confusing world of attorneys, living wills and advance statements can make putting off this decision more attractive than confronting it. But as you can never be sure if or when you may lose your capacity to make decisions, perhaps this is a subject that you should confront sooner rather than later.
What is the difference between an ordinary power of attorney and an LPA?
An ordinary power of attorney is the permission you give for someone to take control of your finances. This responsibility, however, ends if you lose the capacity to oversee how they are managing your estate. Once this happens, an LPA is made so that someone can act on your behalf.
Unlike with an ordinary power of attorney, an LPA gives an attorney control over two parts of your life — your estate and well-being. These responsibilities can be shared among a number of people, divided so that one person takes control of your estate and the other your well-being, or one person can be responsible for both.
Taking care of your estate
An attorney that looks after your estate will be responsible for all things financial. This may include buying or selling property, paying bills, managing your investments and any maintenance costs on your property.
Because of the control an attorney has over your estate, you cannot give the control of your finances to someone who is bankrupt. This is to give you some added peace-of-mind that your estate will be managed correctly while you are unable to act.
Taking care of your well-being
An attorney for your well-being may have to make some very difficult decisions about your medical care. They are responsible for the care you receive, your routine, the food you eat and the people you have contact with.
Despite making someone responsible for your care, some wishes you made before losing your ability to make decisions will overrule the choices made by your attorney.
A living will highlights whether you want to donate your organs after you pass away and whether you wish to receive life-saving treatment.
Once completed and signed, the decisions made here are legally binding and cannot be changed by anyone apart from yourself.
How to make an LPA
You can make an LPA by registering your intentions with the Office of the Public Guardian.
To do so, you will need to provide:
- Your name, address and date of birth
- The intended attorney’s name, address and date of birth
- A certificate provider’s name and address
A certificate provider is an impartial person, usually your doctor or solicitor, who makes sure you understand the consequences of making an LPA and that you are not pressured into doing so.
You can also provide the names and contact details of people you wish to be notified when the LPA is registered. Their purpose is to raise concerns about the attorney if they feel that they are unsuitable.
There are fees associated with registering an LPA, but if you are from a low-income household, you may be eligible for a 50 percent discount. What’s more, those that receive certain benefits will not have to pay this fee at all.
The only requirements for an attorney to be accepted is that they are over the age of 18, are not bankrupt, have the mental ability to act in this role and are willing to take this responsibility. They can be substituted with another person at any time, but only by you.
You can only register an LPA while you still have the mental capacity to do so. Therefore, it is important to make your wishes known and register early. It can take up to four weeks to make an LPA, and the person you have chosen to act as your attorney cannot do so until they are authorised.
To learn more about end-of-life planning options available to you, visit our advanced care plan page.