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Registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney hits new high

A record number of people, worried about losing mental capacity in the future, are handing over control of their financial, legal and health-related decisions to family members.

Last year, the number of newly registered Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) hit a new high of 800,400, compared to 273,600 in 2013, reflecting, many believe, the concerns of an ageing population.

According to projections by the Office for National Statistics, 14.3 million people will be over the age of 65 by 2026 compared to 11.8 million in 2016. In 2016, the most common causes of death were dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, a trend which is expected to continue.

In light of this, the government has been working hard to raise the profile of LPAs, simplifying the forms and procedures and reducing the cost of applying, and here at Wards Solicitors we have seen a definite increase in people contacting us about making LPAs.

What exactly is an LPA?

An LPA is a legal document that allows you to appoint a trusted individual or individuals to make important decisions on your behalf in the event of a loss of mental capacity as a result of an accident or illness such as dementia.

There are two types of LPA. One covers financial decision making and the other personal welfare decisions like where you live, your medical care, your clothes, diet and so on.

In England and Wales there are more than 2.6 million Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) registered with the single largest group being those for people aged between 81 and 90, closely followed by those between 71 and 80.

While around 40 per cent of the adult population in the UK has a Will, less than one percent has an LPA.

Taking expert and professional legal guidance provides protection

There has been a significant increase in the number of investigations into the actions of attorneys and deputies in the past year, some of whom have attempted to exploit their position.

This highlights the clear need for professional advice when considering drawing up a powerful legal document of this nature with the aim of specifically ensuring your wishes are respected should you ever lose capacity.

Using a solicitor to create and register an LPA safeguards against it being drawn up with errors that turn out later to be expensive, time consuming and extremely stressful to put right.

Getting it right

Along with Solicitors for the Elderly, Wards Solicitors recommends a number of precautionary steps – including, in most cases, avoiding shop bought and online LPA kits – to ensure your Lasting Power of Attorney is effective, legally robust and safe:

  • Plan early – While you have capacity, it’s vital that you get your affairs in order and choose the best people to manage your affairs, in case of an accident or illness. You can’t appoint an attorney once you lose capacity; 
  • Choose carefully – Think carefully who you want to appoint as your attorney and have an open conversation with them so they understand your wishes and what their responsibilities will include. Consider appointing more than one person as your attorney so they can share the responsibility;
  • Consider appointing a professional – A family member might not always be the best person to act as your attorney. Instead, you can appoint a professional such as a solicitor. They can act as a neutral third party and make unbiased decisions that are in your best interests. Bear in mind this usually involves a cost;
  • Think about different circumstances – Consider how you would like your attorney to manage your property and financial affairs in different situations. For example, are you happy for your property to be sold to pay for your care costs?
  • Address the difficult questions – Your attorney might have to make difficult decisions about your health and welfare. If you have specific wishes around your care plans, medical treatment, or end of life wishes, make sure you discuss this with them and make your choices clear in your document; 
  • Seek professional advice – In most cases, avoid shop-bought and online LPA kits. Seeking professional legal advice is the best way of ensuring that an LPA is effective, legally robust and safe;
  • Keep your plans current – Make sure you keep your LPA updated if your circumstances change. Your choices around the people you want to be responsible for your finances and wellbeing may change, such as following a marriage or divorce, when children reach adulthood, or if parents pass away.

For more information about LPAs, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Will, Probate and Mental Capacity team, now one of the biggest and most experienced departments in the South West.

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