Lasting power of attorney explained
What a lasting power of attorney is, when it's needed and why it's important.
- What exactly is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
- Can't my spouse automatically take care of things for me anyway?
- Surely this can wait until I'm older?
- Won't my doctor automatically follow the wishes of my next of kin?
So, what exactly is a lasting power of attorney (LPA)?
An LPA is a legal document that lets you name one or more people you trust to act as your 'attorney.' These people will be able to make decisions on your behalf if you suffer an accident or illness that means you can't make these decisions yourself.
There are two types of LPA. One covers decisions about your health and care and the other covers your property and finances.
A health and care LPA covers:
- Medical treatment
- Living arrangements
- General welfare and day to day care
A financial decisions LPA covers money or assets you own in England or Wales, including:
- Residential or commercial property
- Money held with a financial institution, such as a bank
- Financial assets, such as shares
You can choose to put just one or both types of LPA in place.
Can't my spouse automatically take care of things for me anyway?
If you become unable to manage your own affairs, no one automatically has the legal authority to step in and take care of matters for you, not even your spouse, child or parent.
Unless they've already been given this authority through an LPA, their only option would be to make an application to the court for a deputyship order, which is a complex, lengthy and expensive process. In the meantime, your loved ones would be unable to make decisions about your care or access your finances to cover everyday costs such as your household bills or groceries.
Surely this can wait until I'm older?
Some people feel that an LPA is something that can be put off until later life, but the reality is that an accident or illness can strike at any point in life, often without warning.
In order to make an LPA, you need to be able to fully understand what you are doing and its implications. If you wait until you're no longer able to make or express your own decisions, then you will no longer be able to put your LPA in place.
With a little bit of forward planning, your loved ones can step in and take control as soon as the need arises.
Won't my doctor automatically follow the wishes of my next of kin?
A common misconception is that your next of kin will be able to decide whether or not you should receive certain treatment, and that these decisions will be honoured by your doctor.
In reality though, your loved ones will not automatically have the right to make decisions about your healthcare or medical treatment if you become unable to make these decisions yourself. This includes decisions around life sustaining treatment.
To give this authority to the person you choose, you need to make a health and care LPA.