Lasting power of attorney – what is it and when do you need it?

A lasting power of attorney sets out who you want to appoint to act on your behalf or make decisions if you are no longer able to make them for yourself. A family solicitor will be able to help you draw up the required paperwork. You must be eighteen years old or more to draw up a lasting power of attorney. What’s more, you must have mental capacity (in other words, the ability to make your own decisions) at the time when you sign it.

What goes into a lasting power of attorney?

The lasting power of attorney document names the person or people who have the power to act for you if you cannot do so. It lists the situations and areas in which they can step in. It is important to choose someone whom you trust, and who has the capacity to make well-informed, logical decisions. You can cancel it at any time, so long as you still have capacity to make your own decisions.

Or, you can make a new one, because people’s situations change, and you may want someone different to act for you.

When do you need it?

There are two main reasons why a lasting power of attorney is set up:

  • Medical care

You can have to make decisions on the health and welfare. So, it will give the named person power to agree medical treatment or surgery for you. It will also enable them to decide when to stop trying to treat you if your wish is not to be resuscitated. You can also use it to have decisions made around personal care, medicines and whether or not to move into a care home.

The lasting power of attorney only becomes valid when you are demonstrably unable to make your own decisions for whatever reason. This could be if you experience dementia or memory loss or are unconscious after an accident. Or, for instance, if you’re living with mental health issues that mean you can’t think rationally about your own care.

  • Property and finances

The other situation where people use a lasting power of attorney is to decide on matters around property or finances. This allows someone else to pay your bills and manage your bank account. As a result, you can keep your home running for longer even if you cannot physically sort the admin yourself.

A lasting power of attorney for property and finance also enables someone to collect a pension for someone else. Finally, it allows someone to sell a person’s home if they need to go into residential care, for example.

How do you set up a lasting power of attorney?

It is wise to allow someone to make decisions for you or act on your behalf, as soon as you suspect you may need one in the future. It won’t be put into effect without your permission or you being officially declared in need of it. There is more information about setting up a lasting power of attorney on the UK Government’s website.  Also, you can ask your family solicitor to explain the process to you.

The first decision to make is who to choose to be your attorney. The person can be anyone over the age of eighteen who has the mental ability to put your wishes into practice and make decisions for you. It can be a relative, spouse, friend or someone you know professionally, like your doctor or solicitor. Choose someone who manages their own affairs well and has your best interests at heart.

Never let anyone pressurise you into making them your attorney. If you feel anxious about this, talk to your family solicitor or the police. You can have more than one attorney. However, your lasting power of attorney document must state how you want decisions to be made – separately or together.

Once the document is ready, you must sign it and get the attorneys and witnesses to sign it too. Then, you must register it. You can do this online or you can send paper copies in the post. Your family solicitor can usually handle this part of the process for you.

Finally, if you want to change or end your lasting power of attorney you can do so at any time providing you are able to make decisions clearly. If your attorney’s details change, for instance, if they move house, you will also need to update the documents accordingly. You will need to supply supporting documents to prove the change is genuine.

If you have any questions about a lasting power of attorney, please speak to your family solicitor. He or she can guide you through the process, help you draw up the document, and choose the best people to act on your behalf if it becomes necessary.

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