The elderly are paying lawyers to draw up legal documents that specify they would rather die than have inflated care home fees use up their children’s inheritance.
According to a leading law firm, the soaring cost of care is driving many middle-aged couples to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), recording their wish to refuse treatment if they become mentally incapacitated.
The number of elderly people making and registering an LPA over the last two years as doubled to half a million, with many concerned that they may develop dementia. Dementia is now the leading cause of death in the UK with 11.6% of all deaths attributable to the condition.
Funding for care in the UK is limited – the NHS runs a Continuing Healthcare scheme which will provide full funding regardless of a person’s assets or income, but the scheme is complex and few are eligible. Over two in five people requiring residential care are now meeting the cost themselves – an increase of nearly a third over the past ten years, reflecting the cuts made to state funding. Part funding is also available for those with assets of less than £23,500 – and full funding is provided if a person’s assets are less than £14,250.
Care fees vary depending on the area but typical annual costs are £29,250 for residential care or £39,300+ where nursing is required (Source: PayingForCare). With the average house price in the UK now £216,674, the cost of nursing care can deplete a couple’s savings in a few short years.
It is perhaps no surprise that solicitors are reporting an increase of clients using an LPA to officially declare that they do not want to burden their children and grandchildren financially. One firm in Manchester reported that almost all of their clients over the past year had decided to use the document to address concerns over care fees eating up their assets. The document gives people the ability to decide in advance that should they lose mental capacity, they will refuse prospective treatment. The bottom line is that the elderly would rather die than see their children’s’ or grandchildren’s’ inheritance depleted on care costs.
The failing care system is something that the Breens team has commented on extensively over the past year or so. Care funding has been described as ‘patchy’ and ‘not fit for purpose’, neglected pensioners whose care needs have not been met are swamping already overstretched A & E departments; and those funding their own care are paying an uplift on care fees to compensate for Councils not meeting the actual cost of care.
Last week the Prime Minister announced she would back sharp increases to Council Tax bills to raise more money for social care funding.
Make a Lasting Power of Attorney
An LPA allows you to nominate someone to make decisions for you, should you lose the ability to make them for yourself. There are two types of LPA – one concerns finance and property decisions and the other concerns health and care decisions. If you don’t have an LPA and you lose mental capacity, a friend or relative will have to apply to the Court for a Deputyship Order. This can be a lengthy and intrusive process, costing thousands in lawyers’ and court fees.
Although the health and care LPA is a way for people to nominate someone they trust (their ‘attorney’) to make decisions for them should they lose mental capacity, the person making the LPA can also express ‘preferences’ and ‘instructions’ in the document. While preferences are only guidelines for their attorneys, instructions have to be followed.
An example of a preference might be: “I would prefer to live within three miles of my grandchildren
An example of an instruction might be: “My attorneys must ensure I am given only vegan food.”
In addition, the person making the LPA also has the option of deciding whether:
- they give their attorneys authority to give or refuse consent to life-sustaining treatment on their behalf
- they do not give their attorneys authority to give or refuse consent to life-sustaining treatment on their behalf (Section 5 of the LPA).
Speak to our Later Life Planning department to find out more about making a Lasting Power of Attorney.