This week is Dementia Action Week, an event organised by the Alzheimer’s Society as a call to action to help those affected by dementia. Around 850,000 people in the UK have the condition and a new diagnosis is made every 3 minutes, according to the Charity.
An easy step that people can take to help reduce the impact of a dementia diagnosis is to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) early on in life. Too many people leave this vital step until later years but the reality is that anyone at any age could find themselves incapacitated and without an LPA in place, the only option is to apply for a court order.
Making a Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to nominate a person or persons that you trust to make decisions for you, should you be unable to make them for yourself. This might be, for example, because you have developed advanced dementia or it may be as a result of an accident or stroke.
There are two types of LPAs: one for decisions regarding your finances, and the other for decisions regarding your health and care. You can choose the same or different attorneys for each.
You can decide in advance how you would like your attorneys to make decisions: for example, jointly, or jointly and severally, and you can limit their powers or leave them particular instructions. This effectively puts you in full control of your future, should the worst happen.
Should you lose mental capacity without making this document, the alternative is for someone close to you to apply for a court order, known as a Deputyship Order. Anyone can apply, so it might not be the person you would have chosen yourself. The process can take several months even if a hearing is not necessary, and the whole affair is very expensive in contrast with making an LPA. In the meantime, your bank accounts may be frozen and those close to you may struggle to arrange for basic expenses, bills and care fees to be paid.
As for LPAs, there are two types of Deputyship Order: one for financial decisions and one for health and care decisions. However, the Courts are reluctant to grant the latter unless there is a good reason, such as a dispute over where you should live.
Once a Deputy has been appointed by the court, their actions will be supervised but will only be limited as the Court sees fit. They may therefore have wider powers than you would have granted, had you made an LPA.
Clearly, making an LPA in advance is a far simpler, cheaper and quicker solution in contrast with leaving others to apply for a court order. The LPA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian and can be used as soon as it is needed – in fact, the financial LPA can be used sooner, with your permission. This can be convenient if you are incapacitated for a short period of time, such as during an operation or holiday, and need assistance with your finances.
Making a health and care LPA puts you in control over your care, should you need it in the future. You can nominate someone close to you who knows how you would feel about particular care decisions – and you can leave them both instructions and preferences to guide them. In contrast, anyone can apply for a health and care Deputyship Order – which may well be someone who doesn’t understand your wishes and feelings.
Another aspect of later life planning to consider as early as possible is your Will. Again, many people leave it until later in life to draw up this vital document, unaware that they could lose mental capacity sooner. If you have not made a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy – which can have unexpected effects.
In these circumstances, there is a possibility of those close to you applying to the Court to make a statutory Will on your behalf – but the procedure is complex, lengthy and expensive. The Court will only order that a Will should be executed where they believe it to be in the person’s best interests (rather than, for example, the best interests of the family who stand to benefit).
As for making an LPA, it is far simpler, cheaper and quicker to draw up a Will in advance, and update it from time to time. This puts you in control of what will happen to your assets and allows you to make provision for those you care about.
Anyone aged 18 or over should have both an LPA and Will in place. Perhaps surprisingly, a diagnosis of dementia does not automatically preclude you from making either document. In the early stages, it is likely the sufferer will still have sufficient capacity, saving a great deal of time, stress and money going forward. The key thing, however, is to act quickly – dementia can progress very rapidly.
Speak to our Later Life planning department today about putting your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney in place now…