We often write about planning for your future and this post is no different. But it is quite a tricky area.
Imagine you were no longer able to make decisions for yourself. A terrifying thought, but a reality for an increasing number of people, particularly the elderly.
- There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. This will soar to 2 million by 2051
- One person will develop dementia every three minutes this year
- 70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems.*
Who would decide what happens to you, how you’re cared for, and where, if you found yourself in this position?
Nominating someone to look after your affairs can go some way in giving you peace of mind that someone has your best interests at heart.
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows a person you nominate (known as an attorney) to make decisions on your behalf, should you become unable to yourself. There are two types of LPA. One for health and welfare and one for property and financial affairs.
Today we are going to look at health and welfare lasting power of attorneys.
What responsibilities does a Health and Welfare attorney have?
Being an attorney for someone is not a decision to be taken lightly. Once agreed to, it’s not something that can be put to one side and ignored. As a health and welfare attorney the likelihood is that you will be responsible for the person you are attorney for, for the rest of their lives.
Given the increase in cases of dementia, the odds are high that, as an attorney, you could end up making decisions for someone who doesn’t remember who they are, or know what they need. Decisions from choosing their care home, ensuring that you understand the medication being given, and the diagnosis, right through to making the decision for palliative care, if requested in the LPA, will be down to you.
As an attorney, you are responsible for making sure that the subject’s quality of life and wellbeing is ‘maintained or improved’ once they have lost the capacity to do so themselves. You would be expected to spend their money on things like:
- New clothes
- Decorating their room if they move into a care home
- Paying for extra support so they can go out more – whether that’s visiting friends and family or even on a holiday or trip.
How to choose your Health and Welfare attorney
An attorney needs to be over 18 years old and have the mental capacity to make their own decisions. They could be:
- A relative
- A close friend
- A professional
- Your husband/wife/partner
They do not have to be a British citizen or live in the UK; however, we would strongly recommend that they are. It’s really hard to be a remote attorney with so many hands-on decisions required.
Questions to ask yourself when deciding on your attorney
Choosing your attorney or attorney’s (yes you can have more than one!) is a huge decision with many things to take into consideration. It should not be taken lightly or rushed in to. You need to make sure that they know your wishes and will be willing to fight for them if they need to.
Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself about the person you are considering as your attorney so you can be sure they will be able to make a well-informed decision:
- Do they understand my wishes?
- Will they respect my wishes?
- Will they make decisions that are in my best interest?
- Could they stand up for what I want, even if a doctor disagrees?
- How well do they look after their own affairs and finances?
- How comfortable would they be making difficult decisions?
Remember if you are having more than one attorney, do they get on? Will they be able to work together with your best interests in mind?
What happens if you don’t have an LPA?
If there is no LPA in place when an individual is no longer able to make their own decisions, a family member, friend or solicitor will have to apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed as your Deputy. This can be a very time consuming, lengthy and expensive process. During this process, your assets may be frozen, out of reach even to spouses and immediate family. There will be no one person responsible for controlling your affairs. It is not a situation you, or your family, will want to find yourselves in.
Remember, a reduction in mental capacity can happen very quickly and with no warning – a stroke, for example. So don’t leave it to chance.
How can Face to Face help?
Ralph, Becky and Julie are all attorneys. We can be nominated via an LPA to look after your affairs, or those of a loved one. We can also help you prepare your LPA through our sister company, Face to Face Estate Planning.
We spend hours each month taking care of various tasks related to this duty, including visiting our clients in the care homes we have chosen for them, dealing with doctors, arranging trips out. It is very interesting and rewarding, but can also be difficult at times, and emotional.
Our experience means we can speak very candidly about what you can expect as an attorney, or what you should consider when choosing yours before the final decision is made. It’s very important to get this right, and we can help. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange visit to discuss your LPA or find out more.