In the UK, most adults have not yet made a will and even fewer have made a power of attorney.
Part of the reason for the low take up of power of attorney is the misconception that powers of attorney are for the elderly and not something younger people need to consider.
This misconception is preventing people from taking the necessary steps to minimise problems should they become ill or injured to the point where they can no longer manage their own financial and/or health affairs.
Before you click away as you are too young, ask yourself are you immune from life-changing illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart-attack? Do you believe yourself so protected that you will never have an accident or any other unforeseen circumstance? We can’t know the future, but we can ensure we have things in place should the unexpected happen.
A power of attorney is a safety net to ensure that your finances and medical care are managed as you would want by your appointing a trusted person or persons to have the ability to liaise with third parties including banks, HMRC, lawyers, pension firms and doctors on your behalf.
Types of power of attorney
There are two types of power of attorney— ordinary and lasting.
Ordinary Power of Attorney
An ordinary power of attorney allows someone else to manage your financial affairs for a temporary period, for example if you are living abroad or going into hospital for a major operation.
You can arrange an Ordinary Power of Attorney by speaking to a specialist solicitor, normally a Wills and Probate solicitor.
Lasting Power of Attorney
A lasting power of attorney ensures that your wishes are upheld even if you lose mental capacity due to accident or illness. There are two types: health & welfare; and property & financial affairs.
If you do not have a power of attorney in place and you lose capacity to deal with your own affairs, your loved ones will have to apply to the Court of Protection to get the legal right to assist you with your finances or health. This is a costly and lengthy process and can lead to increased stress for your loved ones at a time of crisis.
How to get a lasting power of attorney
While you can download the forms the from the government website, the forms are complex and must be signed in a specific order. Alternatively, you can use a solicitor to prepare and apply for the power of attorney on your behalf
Timescales for Lasting Power of Attorney
Lasting Powers of Attorney must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). The OPG aims to process applications within eight weeks, but it often takes between 15 and 20 weeks. This can cause significant delays and distress for families, so it is important to get the application right the first time.
Using a solicitor to make a Lasting Power of Attorney
Applying for a lasting power of attorney is more than just a form-filling exercise. The more you can tailor a lasting power of attorney to your circumstances, the more effective it will be for both parties and give you peace of mind. Many people worry that they are relinquishing control to others who can make whatever decisions they want, but it’s not the case.
A donor can choose which powers to include or exclude in a power of attorney and make it their own.
Once you have your lasting power of attorney
Once the OPG has approved your lasting power of attorney, you will need to keep in in a safe place. It is also recommended that you keep a fact file alongside the document which lists all your assets and can be used by your attorney(s) if they need to manage your financial affairs in the future. You can also leave a letter of wishes for your attorney, detailing how you want assets to be looked after and what medical treatment you would like.
A letter of wishes is not binding, it’s just guidance, but it can be particularly important when using health and welfare powers of attorney, so it is known exactly what type of life-sustaining treatment, medicine and care you prefer.
As the saying goes, age is nothing but a number so whether you are 18 or 80, you should make a Lasting Power of Attorney. Contact us now on 01704 532890.