Managing a Relative’s Financial Affairs When they Can’t

29 January 2018

It can be uncomfortable to think that there might be a time in the future when someone close to you is no longer able to express their wishes, make their own decisions or manage their own affairs. But this is a difficult reality that many families face, which is often made far more challenging when loved ones find themselves unable to step in and take control of the situation.

Why Can’t the Family Take Control?

It is a common misconception that if someone becomes unable to take care of their health or finances themself, then a friend or family member will automatically be able to take care of these matters on their behalf.

In reality, no one has the legal authority to make decisions about someone else’s health or finances, without a legal document granting them that authority. This means that not even the person’s husband or wife will be able to step in. Sadly, families often don’t discover this until it’s too late, rendering them powerless to manage the situation.

So How Can They Gain Legal Authority?

There are two ways in which someone can be granted legal authority to manage another person’s affairs. Either the individual in question can make a Lasting Power of Attorney while they’re still able or, if the individual is unable to make decisions, their loved ones can apply to the Court of Protection for deputyship.

A Lasting Power of Attorney

This is the cheaper, easier and more straight forward option of the two. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document in which a person can appoint someone they trust, called an “attorney”, who they give legal authority to manage their affairs if they’re no longer able to manage these themself.

A Lasting Power of Attorney can only be made if the person making it is able to fully understand what it does and the implications of this. This means that if the person has already lost the ability to make their own decisions or understand the consequences of their actions, then it’s too late for them to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney that can be granted. One covers the person’s health and welfare, meaning that their attorney can make decisions for them on medical treatment, care and other aspects of their welfare. The other covers the person’s finances. This allows their attorney to access their bank accounts and other financial assets, as well as sell or transfer property that they own.

With Co-op Legal Services, a Lasting Power of Attorney costs from £270 including VAT, or Mirror Lasting Powers of Attorney for two people start from £450 including VAT.

Applying to the Court of Protection for Deputyship

If a person becomes unable to manage their own affairs and they haven’t already put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, then the only option their loved ones will have is to make an application to the Court of Protection for deputyship. This will see the Court appoint someone as a deputy, who will then be able to make decisions on the person’s behalf.

Applying to the Court for deputyship involves a significant amount of complicated paperwork. The process is long-winded and can take several months to go through. There are also significant Court fees which can run into the thousands of pounds as well as legal fees if the family needs professional help with the application to the Court.

Until the deputy has been appointed, no one will be able to access the person’s finances or make decisions on their behalf. This can make caring for them incredibly challenging. The Court fees will sometimes need to be covered by the relatives as well, as no one will be able to access the person’s bank accounts until the process is complete.

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