Deciding when is the right time to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be difficult for people. For some people it is seen as a precautionary measure, as there is just no telling what the future holds. Of course as it only ever happens to other people most people don’t bother. Making one is admitting that one day they may not be able to make their own decisions – and that is too scary to think about.
The simple answer is that the best time, the only time, to make an LPA is while you still can. We don’t know what is around the corner – take Michael Schumacher for instance. It is vital to consider making your LPA now. This is particularly important if you have already been diagnosed with an illness of some kind.
The real danger is, if you leave it until you need it, then it is already too late to make one and your options are then very limited. If your loved ones want to act for you they will have to apply to the Court of Protection to become your Deputy. This process can take several months and cost between £3000 and £5000, with an annual cost for every year that you want it to continue. Alternatively, the Court of Protection will appoint a stranger to do this instead. So what happens in the meantime? Bank accounts can be frozen meaning benefits, pensions, rents, etc can’t be collected and bills can’t be paid. You will also be at the mercy of the doctors regarding any medical treatment or procedures.
A true story…
We visited a married couple, Joan and David, almost two years ago, after David had been newly diagnosed with a degenerative illness. We helped them to put their wills in place and recommended making Lasting Powers of Attorney too, particularly due to David’s diagnosis, but they felt this was unnecessary at this time.
David’s health is deteriorating and they now want to make LPAs. Unfortunately, he is no longer aware of what is going on around him and we were unable to help. David is now at the mercy of the Court of Protection and his loved ones will now have to apply to be made his Deputy. This takes many months to complete – up to 2 years is not unknown – and costs many times more than making LPA’s.
Until then, there is nobody who can act on his behalf. Important decisions about his medical treatment and moving into a care home will be made by medical staff. But there will be no-one to manage his financial affairs. This includes accessing bank accounts, managing property and investments, collecting pensions. Eventually Social Services will appoint an advocate – with limited powers.
When should you make yours?
The short answer is – now. If you haven’t made a Lasting Power of Attorney, then do it now – while you still have mental capacity. Mental capacity can be lost at any time, and not just by a mental illness such as dementia. Simple things – a bump to the head or even a car accident take people by surprise. Not having one is a more time consuming and expensive process. Ensure your wishes are carried out by those you love by appointing them as your attorney today.