Last month, we asked this question on Twitter:
“If you become unwell and can no longer make decisions about your finances and welfare, can your family automatically step in and take control of things for you?”
22% of respondents said yes, and a further 17% weren’t sure. The answer to this question is “no”.
No one (not even your husband, wife, siblings or children) can automatically step in to make decisions about your health and welfare or your finances on your behalf. This can make for an incredibly complicated and stressful situation for everyone involved if you’re no longer able to take care of these matters yourself.
So, if something like this was to happen, how can your family obtain legal authority to take control of your affairs on your behalf?
Plan Ahead with a Lasting Power of Attorney
There are two ways for someone to gain legal authority to make decisions about your health and welfare or your finances on your behalf. The cheaper, quicker and more straight-forward of these options is to plan ahead and put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone you trust as your “attorney”. This grants them legal authority to make decisions and deal with your affairs on your behalf, should the need arise. With Co-op Legal Services, an LPA costs from £270 (including VAT) plus the £82 registration fee which is payable to the Office of the Public Guardian.
It’s important to note that no one else can put an LPA in place for you. It’s also only possible for you to put an LPA in place if you’re fully capable of understanding the nature and effect of the document. This means that if you suffer an accident or an illness, such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia, leaving you unable to demonstrate that you fully understand what an LPA does, then it’s already too late to put one in place.
Worryingly, 39% of those who responded to our Twitter poll didn’t know this.
Sadly though, this is not an unexpected statistic. So many people haven’t even heard of a Lasting Power of Attorney until they find themselves in a situation where they need to take over someone’s affairs for them. But by then it’s already too late for that person to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.
Applying for a Deputyship Order
If you don’t have an LPA in place and you become unable to make decisions because of an accident or illness, your loved ones will need to make an application to the Court for a Deputyship Order. This is where the Court appoints someone as a ‘deputy’ granting them legal authority to manage your affairs on your behalf.
This involves extensive legal paperwork, the process usually takes months to complete and the Court and legal fees can easily run into thousands of pounds.
Throughout this lengthy process, no one will be able to access your finances or make any decisions on your behalf. This is likely to make it very challenging for your loved ones to care for you and it can be incredibly stressful for everyone involved.
If you put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place in advance, then this can come into effect as soon as it’s needed, avoiding frustrating delays and preventing a lot of unnecessary stress for you and your loved ones.