Most people acknowledge that it is important to organise their affairs in the event of their death, which is why so many people make a Will these days. However, many fail to make similar provisions to organise their affairs should they become unable to look after them themselves during their lifetime, through illness or accident - an ever increasing possibility given the constant advances in medical care.
Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, individuals can now draw up a legal document in England & Wales called a LASTING POWER OF ATTORNEY (LPA) - a document that enables individuals (known as a Donor) to appoint a person or persons (known as Attorneys) to look after their affairs in the event of mental and/or physical incapacity, perhaps due to infirmity in old age, illness or accident.
It is essential that such arrangements are made while fit and healthy since the Law does not allow such arrangements to be made after the event, which can leave families with a multitude of practical problems.
A LPA can be drawn up to cover the management of financial affairs (called a Property & Financial Affairs LPA) and a second LPA (called a Health and Welfare LPA) to cover the management of personal matters such as medical care.
While an LPA is a very powerful document, there are numerous safeguards to prevent its abuse:
An LPA is primarily used to appoint a person to deal with your affairs after the onset of mental and/or physical incapacity. However before the document can be used, certain people (including the Donor), who are selected by the Donor when drafting the LPA, have to be notified and anyone can object if they are not happy with the reasons why the document is being brought into effect.
Restrictions can be included on what the attorneys can and cannot do under the authority of the documents and advice or guidance can be included by the Donor about how they would like the Attorney(s) to act.
When the LPA is signed, a certificate must be completed by a professional, ( or someone who has known the donor for at least two years) to confirm that the person making the document understands the meaning of the LPA and the consequences of it.
Like your Will, a LPA can be updated or cancelled at any time should circumstances change- and as long as you have the capacity to do so.