At some point in the future any one of us could become unable to manage our own affairs. This is usually because of old age, illness or an accident. If that actually happened, who would deal with your property, your bank accounts or decide what the medical treatment you receive?
Most people would say "my wife or my husband will deal with it" or "I'm sure my kids will make sure I'm OK".
But in England and Wales, the reality is that your husband, wife or children have no automatic legal right to manage your affairs if you can't.
In these circumstances, your loved ones would have to apply to the Court to become your 'Deputy' before they can deal with matters for you. This is a long and expensive process for your family, during an already distressing time.
The good news is that it is easy to help your family, with a little careful planning now by making a Lasting Power of Attorney, also known as a 'LPA'.
LPAs are designed to enable you to protect you and your affairs. They allow you to choose someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf. The person you choose is called your 'Attorney' and the decisions they make either relate to your financial affairs or your health and welfare.
If you are ready to put an LPA in place, here are our top tips:
Top Tip 1 - Actually make a Lasting Power of Attorney
This is the first and most important of all the top tips. It is one thing to think it's a good idea, but it's another to actually do it. If you don't do it now, you're unlikely to think about it again. Our Lasting Power of Attorney service is designed to be easy and convenient for you, starting with initial advice and guidance; so call us on 0330 606 9591 and we'll explain it all to you or contact us online and we will call you.
Top Tip 2 - Consider who to appoint as Attorney
When you appoint an Attorney to act on your behalf, you need to completely trust them. They may have control of some important areas of your life such as your finances, your property and your welfare. But trust is not the only issue - your potential Attorney should be happy to take on the role. Ask yourself "are they capable and is it practical?" Anyone who is not local to you or lives in another country may not be the best choice.
Top Tip 3 - What happens if your Attorney is unable to act for you?
If your Attorney dies before you or is unwilling or unable to act, this can cause problems. Strongly consider appointing replacement Attorneys in your LPA. This will help keep you protected if your initial appointment of Attorney doesn't work out.
Top Tip 4 - Should you appoint more than one Attorney?
You can appoint more than one Attorney if you like but whether this is right for you depends on your circumstances. If you do appoint more than one Attorney, you need to decide how they will make decisions about your affairs.
Do you want them to have to agree before anything can happen or are you comfortable that they can make decisions independently of each other? You may feel that having them both agree is a safer bet and that this provides you with checks and balances. Be aware that by including this, you could make the Lasting Power of Attorney ineffective. It could mean that neither of your Attorneys can act because you've specified they can only make decisions if they both agree.
In this top tip, and in most of the others, we say you should only appoint Attorneys that you completely trust. If you completely trust them you should really allow them to act independently of each other. This means that if one of the joint attorneys dies or is unable to act, the other Attorney can continue to make decisions on your behalf.
Top Tip 5 - Should your Attorney act now or only when you can't?
When making an LPA, you'll need to decide whether you want your Attorney to make decisions for you now, when you are still able to make your own decisions, or only when you cannot make decisions yourself. Many people think it's better to ask that their Attorney to act only when they cannot make decisions for themselves, however, this may not always be true.
The problem with this is that your Attorney could get questioned every time they try to use the Lasting Power of Attorney. They could be asked to prove that you cannot make decisions for yourself and could require an up-to-date doctor's certificate each and every time they want to access your bank account to pay for your shopping for example. This is impractical for your attorney and could cause serious inconvenience.
If you trust your Attorney to help you when you can't make decisions, you should trust them to access to your finances now even if they may not need to. Make the right choice of Attorney and you shouldn't need to restrict when they can act.
Top Tip 6 - Register your Lasting Power of Attorney now or later?
You need to decide when to activate your Lasting Power of Attorney so that it's ready to be used. Activating your LPA involves applying to have it registered by the Court of Protection.
You have two options, you can either register the Lasting Power of Attorney as soon as it's in place and signed by you and your Attorney, or leave it to be registered at a later date. If you wish to register your Lasting Power of Attorney then the Court charges a fee of £110 for each LPA.
We think you should register your Lasting Power of Attorney straight away. The application and registration of the LPA can take around 12 weeks. By registering it now your Lasting Power of Attorney is activated and ready for your Attorney to use it when they need it.
If you decide to not register it and your Attorney needs to act on your behalf, there could be a 12 week delay before it can be used. This could be a critical time when decisions need to be made and actions taken.
At Co-op Legal Services we have an experienced team who can discuss your circumstances and options to help you put your Lasting Powers of Attorney in place. If you want us to, we can also deal with the registration and activation as well, giving you total peace of mind. We work on a fixed fee basis to ensure you get no nasty surprises when putting your LPA in place.
To discuss making an LPA, please call our Lasting Power of Attorney specialists on 01618558360 or contact us online and we will help you.