One of the most important questions that is often left unanswered is “who would I want to manage my affairs if I could not manage them for myself?”
The best way to answer this question is to prepare Lasting Powers of Attorney (“LPAs”).
You must have mental capacity to make LPAs and the document must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used. This can take between 12 to 16 weeks.
There are two specific LPAs. One relates to your property and financial affairs and other to your health and welfare.
If you have not prepared LPAs, you do not have a legally appointed person to manage your affairs if you lose mental capacity. Instead, your affairs pass into the control of the Court of Protection. Somebody must then apply to the Court of Protection to obtain an order authorising them to manage your affairs. This is an expensive and time-consuming process. Also, you do not get to choose who manages your affairs!
These issues often become critical when a person is entering long term care accommodation.
I had such a case earlier this year where a lady of 82 years of age was living at home alone and was diagnosed with on-set dementia. Fortunately, the lady still had mental capacity, but had been advised that this would deteriorate. She decided to move into care accommodation so she could receive the support she would need in the future.
I was contacted by the lady’s daughter as she was concerned about the management of mother’s affairs.
I visited the lady to discuss making LPAs. She decided to appoint her two children to manage all her affairs, including accepting or refusing life-sustaining treatment on her behalf. These issues were all addressed with the preparation of LPAs, which were signed and immediately registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
The lady’s mental health deteriorated only a few months later, which resulted in her being unable to manage her affairs. Fortunately, the LPAs were immediately available for use and the children were able to make decisions about mother’s financial and health affairs.
This was a difficult time for the family, but luckily it was possible to prepare the LPAs just in time. In my experience, the key point is always to plan ahead and act sooner rather than later!