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Dementia and lasting power of attorney

Having your affairs in order before reaching old age is something that every person should think about. While this issue is generally something that family members do not want to talk about, and can even seem a little morbid, making arrangements for your care and wellbeing in later life - along with your finances and asset distribution after you die - is highly recommended.

Care in later life is something that all adults in the UK are increasingly having to think about, especially as the population is living longer than ever. For example, according to the Office for National Statistics, within two decades one in ten people in certain parts of the UK will be over the age of 85 - and while this is great news, is begs the question: who will take care of us when we are older?

Here, we take a closer look at one issue that can unfortunately for some go hand-in-hand with getting older - dementia. We also look at the legal processes designed to ensure that people who are diagnosed with this debilitating condition are given all the care they require.

Lasting Power of Attorney - what is it?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal arrangement that allows a person to appoint someone close to them to make decisions on their behalf when they are unable to. This person can manage a whole manner of things, such as your finances or medical decisions, if a medical condition means you will not be able to do so yourself.

Usually, there are two different types of LPA. These include:

  • Property and affairs LPA
  • Health and welfare LPA

Both types make different decisions and are appointed using separate application forms. It is up to you whether you make both types or just one. Also, you have the choice of whether you can have the same attorney for both types of decision, or one for each.

Property and affairs LPA

This type of LPA makes decisions concerning your finances and property. This means that in circumstances where you are unable to manage these tasks anymore, this person will do it for you.

Common tasks carried out by this type of individual include:

  • Paying bills
  • Collecting benefits and other income
  • Selling your house

You are not completely at the mercy of your LPA though, and you can add conditions to what they are allowed to do.

Health and welfare LPA

A health and welfare LPA allows the appointed attorney to make decisions about your health and wellbeing. These might include:

  • Where you live
  • Day-to-day care, such as your diet

One key role of the health and welfare LPA is to make decisions about life-sustaining treatment, should you be offered it. Before appointing this person, you will be asked whether you wish to accept or refuse this type of medical procedure and to clearly state your intention, and your LPA will have to carry out your wishes.

It should go without saying that this type of LPA is a significant responsibility, and you should be aware of the massive impact this can have on any advance decision you have previously made. If your attorney is able to make these decisions on your behalf, it will overrule any decision you have previously made, even if you have stated your wishes. However, if you do not give your attorney this responsibility, your original decision will still stand.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to appointing an attorney, particularly in recent times as the population continues to get older, and diagnosis of conditions such as dementia is on the rise.

Outlined below are just a handful of reasons why you may want to make an LPA:

  • Doing so ensures the person you want to make decisions for you can do so, therefore preventing a stranger or someone you do not trust having this power
  • It is reassuring that, should you be unable to make decisions for yourself, someone you love and care for will be there for you
  • Making this choice may help to start discussions with friends or family members about your wishes for later life
  • Having an LPA will reduce issues arising in the future. It can be much more expensive or time consuming for a relative to do this further down the line

Can I make an LPA?

There are certain conditions to making an LPA, which have been outlined below.

  • You must be over the age of 18
  • You must have the mental capacity to make such a decision

Who can I appoint as an attorney?

You are entitled to appoint anyone you wish to be your attorney, provided they are an adult. Also, if you are appointing a property and affairs LPA, they cannot be bankrupt.

It goes without saying that you should think extremely carefully about who to appoint as an attorney. You must consider who you trust to make big decisions that will undoubtedly change the course of your life. They must be reliable and have the necessary skills to carry out this task. Remember, you can appoint more than one attorney, meaning there is not too much pressure on a single individual.

Usually, people will opt for a relative or a close friend. However, you also have the option of appointing a professional, such as a solicitor or accountant. In most cases, a hired professional will charge for their services, and they will request that you name them as an individual, rather than the company they work for. It is also necessary to ensure the person you assign is willing to carry out the role.

How do I make an LPA?

In order to make an LPA, you need to complete a form. There are separate forms for the two different types of attorney. When you have completed this document, which can be done on paper or online, you should sign it and send it to the Office of the Public Guardian, which handles such claims. 

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