They may have the money, but you can't pay the bill
01 August 2017
As we get older, there's an increasing chance that, at some point in the future, we won't be able to manage our own affairs. Although this might seem unthinkable now, we have an ageing population in the UK and illnesses such as Alzheimer's and dementia are on the rise.
So what would happen if you did become unable to manage your own affairs, such as paying your bills, selling your property and agreeing your medical treatment? Many people assume that their husband, wife, partner or children will step in to deal with everything.
But what you might not realise is that nobody is automatically allowed to manage your affairs and make decisions on your behalf, even if you've become seriously ill. Not your husband, wife, partner, children, or in fact any member of your family. Nobody.
This is because in England & Wales, you aren't allowed to deal with someone else's affairs unless you have been given the legal authority to do so.
Imagine, for example, that you needed to go into a care home but your house had to be sold to pay for the fees. If you couldn't deal with the sale yourself, your loved ones would be stuck as they wouldn't have the legal power to sell your property on your behalf.
So what can you do to prepare for the future, should there come a time when you're no longer able to make decisions for yourself? The answer is to create a Lasting Power of Attorney, also known as an LPA.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to give someone you trust – such as a son or daughter – the legal power to make decisions on your behalf.
Lasting Powers of Attorney aren't all that well known, but they're extremely important, so much so that the Government has even run campaigns to raise awareness of them.
They're important because they allow you to properly plan for the future. This will make life so much easier for your loved ones, because if you do ever become ill, they'll be able to act in your best interests.
Of course, even if you make an LPA, it may never be needed. But it's a bit like an insurance policy – once you've got it, you can have total peace of mind that, if you become unable to make decisions in the years to come, you'll have loved ones in place acting for you when you are at your most vulnerable.
There are actually two different types of LPA. You can have one or both types in place at the same time. One deals with finances. This would allow the appointed person(s) to access and make decisions about things like bank accounts, pensions, property and bills.
The other type of LPA deals with health and welfare, and would enable to the appointed person(s) to make decisions about things like medical care, living arrangements and day-to-day routines.
With regards to healthcare, it's also possible to put an 'Advance Medical Directive' in place, known more commonly as a Living Will. Unlike LPAs, they aren't legal binding, but they allow you to set out your wishes regarding medical treatment, for example, you can say whether or not you'd like to receive life-saving treatment in certain situations.
For instance, many people say that they wouldn't want to be kept alive by a life support machine. But how would your loved ones cope if they were put in this position – would they really be able to decide whether or not to turn off a life support machine? Do you even want them to make this decision for you?
But if your wishes are recorded, your loved ones wouldn't have to face this awful decision, should it ever occur. Instead, you would have made your wishes clear, meaning the burden would be removed from the shoulders of your family and friends. So if there are decisions about your medical treatment that you would rather not leave to your loved ones under an LPA then you can include them in a Living Will.
Making an LPA
However, the thing about Lasting Powers of Attorney and Living Wills is that they must be made whilst you are able to understand the nature and effect of them. If you become unable to do this through illness or accident then no one can do it on your behalf. This means it's really important to put it at the top of your to-do list, or it could become too late.
If you don't make an LPA and you become unable to make decisions for yourself then your loved ones will have to apply to a Court to get the legal authority to manage your affairs. This can be a long and costly process and there's no guarantee that the Court will actually give their approval, especially if someone else is applying at the same time.
This means there could be a situation where the Court gives authority to someone you wouldn't have wanted to manage your affairs. Also, if no one wants the job or is willing to apply to the Court, the Local Authority could end up doing it and make decisions on your behalf. All this can be easily avoided if you put an LPA in place.
If you'd like to know more about getting a Lasting Power of Attorney, our specialist advisors can help. We can discuss how it works, and if it's something you'd like to go ahead with, can help you make an LPA using our fixed fee service. This will give you the peace of mind that someone you know and trust will be able to manage your affairs, should you be unable to do so in the future.
For initial advice call our LPA Advisors on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will call you.