Much like writing a will to ensure your final wishes are respected, making a lasting power of attorney (LPA) is an equally important part of planning for the future.
An LPA is a legal document that allows someone to make your financial decisions when you can no longer do so.
However, while charities and legal campaigners have long heralded the overwhelming benefit of the power of attorney system, a retired judge has sparked a debate on the effectiveness of LPAs, claiming they lack safeguards and can leave the elderly open to abuse by unscrupulous friends and relatives.
Denzil Lush, who was until last year a senior judge of the Court of Protection, voiced concerns over the “lack of transparency” in how appointed attorneys manage older people’s finances.
Mr Lush advocates the legal alternative – the appointment of deputies by the Court of Protection, which he says offers more scrutiny. Deputies are required to provide a full list of assets and annual accounts, and have to provide a security bond, which can be easily claimed if there is a problem with money being spent inappropriately.
However, campaign group Solicitors for the Elderly has warned that not having an LPA could cause serious problems for far greater numbers of people, particularly those struggling with conditions such as dementia.
What is an LPA?
An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.
Last year, almost 650,000 applications were made to register the document and there are 2.5 million currently in operation.
An LPA is made by someone before they lose mental capacity, allowing them to appoint whom they want to act on their behalf and control the powers they give to their attorneys.
What is the difference between an LPA and a deputyship?
Both LPAs and deputyships are legal methods by which decisions can be made for people lacking mental capacity. But the key difference between the two is that an LPA is made by the person before he or she loses capacity, while a deputyship application is made by a third party afterwards.
Applying for a deputyship takes much longer than an LPA – usually four to six months – and they are more expensive to set up. And because an application can only be made once the person has lost capacity, relatives may be left in a situation where they are unable to access funds to pay urgent care bills and other costs.
A court-appointed deputy is not chosen by the person who has lost capacity and therefore they have no control over who will look after their property and finances in the future. Some people are paid to act as deputies, such as accountants and solicitors appointed from a list of approved law firms or charities.
The delay and loss of control associated with deputyships can have a detrimental effect on the individual’s affairs, whereas an LPA comes with a one-off cost and can be used immediately after it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, which can provide reassurance and continuity.
How can Gotelee help?
Making a Lasting Power of Attorney helps ensure the people you care most about aren’t forced to deal with unnecessary difficulties in the future. Without one, your loved ones will face the added pressure at an already emotionally fraught time.
An LPA is especially important if you own property or other valuable assets.
Our specialist team of lawyers can meet you at one of our offices in Ipswich, Hadleigh, Felixstowe, Woodbridge or Melton and can guide you through the process. We can discuss all of the options available to you, and help you choose the people best placed to become your attorney.
To find out more, contact the Private Client Team on 01473 211121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.