They may have the money, but you can't pay the bill

01 August 2017

Although it’s difficult to imagine, there may come a time when we’re no longer able to manage our own affairs, perhaps because of illness, injury or age.

You may already have seen the health of your parents, or even your grandparents, failing. This can be hard for the whole family, but the fact is that we have an ageing population, and more and more people are developing conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

But have you stopped to consider what might happen if someone, such as one of your parents, loses the ability to manage their own affairs altogether? Many people assume that, as a relative, you’ll be able to step in and make decisions on their behalf.

However, what you might not realise is that, under the law, nobody is automatically able to make decisions about another person’s affairs, even if they’ve become seriously ill. Not a husband, wife, partner, children, or in fact any member of their family. Nobody.

This is because in England & Wales, you aren’t able to deal with someone else’s affairs unless you have been given the legal authority to do so.

Imagine, for example, that your mum develops dementia and you need to access her bank account to pay the bills and manage her pension payments. You’d then be stuck, as you wouldn’t have the legal power to access her bank account.

So what can be done now to help prepare for the future, should there come a time when your parents are no longer able to make decisions for themselves? The answer is for your parents to create a Lasting Power of Attorney, also known as an LPA.

Lasting Powers of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney allows a person to give someone they trust – such as a son or daughter – the legal power to make decisions on their behalf.

Lasting Powers of Attorney are extremely important because they allow a person to properly plan for the future. This will make life so much easier for a family, because if a loved one does ever become ill, the family will know who should be making decisions on their behalf.

Of course, even if an LPA is made, it may never be needed. But it’s a bit like an insurance policy – once it’s in place, you can have total peace of mind that, if decisions have to be made 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 someone to set out their wishes regarding medical treatment, for example, they can say whether or not they’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 what if you were put in this position – would you really be able to decide whether or not one of your parents should continue to receive life-saving medical care?

But if their wishes are recorded, you wouldn’t have to face this awful decision, should it ever occur. Instead, your loved one would have made their own decision in their Living Will, meaning the burden would be removed from your shoulders.

Making an LPA

When it comes to making an LPA, there are two things to remember. The first is that you can’t make an LPA for someone else. Instead, it must be made by the person who is handing over the decision-making power.

This means you’d need to speak to your parents and ask them if they’ve made any plans. This can be a difficult conversation to have, as no one wants to face up to the fact that they may become seriously ill in the future.

But it’s vital to raise the subject, because if anything does happen to them and they have no LPAs in place, you’ll have to apply to Court to get the legal authority to manage their 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.

The second thing to remember is that LPAs must be made whilst a person is able to understand the nature and effect of them. If it’s left too late, it won’t be possible to put an LPA in place. Again, this would leave you no other option but to go through the Courts.

If you’d like to know more about our fixed fee Lasting Power of Attorney service, our specialist advisors can help. We can discuss what’s involved and how it works. If it’s something you feel your family would benefit from, we can help you or your loved ones put an LPA in place.

For initial advice call our LPA Advisors on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will call you.

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