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Lasting Powers of Attorney - the importance of not leaving it too late

We’re all aware that where there’s a Will, there’s a way to ensure our final wishes are followed. However, what happens if we are unable to make decisions for ourselves about our health and finances, possibly as a result of dementia or a brain injury?

In such a situation, the only way in which a person affected can keep some control and protect their interests is if they have Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) in place. An LPA is a legal document that allows a person to choose a trusted family member or friend to make decisions on their behalf in the event that something happens which leaves them without capacity to do so themselves.

But whilst LPAs are just as important as Wills in making sure that a person’s wishes are followed, less than 1% of the adult UK population has one, compared with around 40% who have a Will. To some extent, this is due to common misconceptions.

Many people incorrectly assume that their next of kin will automatically be able to make decisions on their behalf and that a partner, with whom they jointly own a property, will have the automatic legal right to choose what happens in relation to these arrangements should they lose capacity.

This is not the case. If there is no LPA in place, the Court of Protection may be required to intervene and appoint someone to make crucial decisions regarding a person’s healthcare and finances on behalf of the person who has lost capacity. Their choice of representative may not necessarily be who the person affected would have chosen to make such decisions.

Sadly, loss of capacity is an increasingly common occurrence. Partly, this is as a result of the growing number of cases of dementia – 1 in 3 people over 65 will develop it. But loss of capacity can happen at any age - every 90 seconds, someone is admitted to hospital in the UK with an acquired brain injury. That’s why making an LPA sooner rather than later is a good idea. However, in a survey of people aged 45 and over, less than half were aware of LPAs.

An LPA allows you to choose who makes decisions which will affect you, if you have lost capacity to do so independently. This means that those decisions can be made by the people you have chosen, and they will be in a stronger position to act in your best interests should the situation ever arise.

We have no control over whether or when we lose capacity to make decisions for ourselves, but we do have the capacity to take control by making an LPA before it’s too late.

For more information about LPAs and the options they provide, please call us on 01733 888888.