Don’t wait for old age to make a ‘last stand’
A Bradford based legal expert is warning people not to wait until old age to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). The advice from associate solicitor Amjed Zaman at LCF Law follows a number of recent high-profile cases where diseases like dementia have triggered financial nightmares for families. Amjed explains: “We frequently encounter cases where a lack of an LPA has caused severe distress for families. A case that we dealt with recently involved the husband passing away leaving everything to his wife, but unfortunately she was suffering from dementia and barely able to communicate. Without an LPA, her children were unable to take charge of her finances without applying for a court of protection order, apart from raising one cheque to pay the funeral director.” An LPA allows someone, while they still have full mental capacity, to nominate a trusted friend or relative to make financial or health-related decisions on their behalf in the event that they lose capacity. Financial and Property LPAs can allow attorneys to do a variety of things including paying bills and handling financial decisions, while control over medical decisions and potential life-sustaining treatments are covered by Health and Welfare LPAs. Amjed added: “In order to act on a loved one’s behalf when they do not have an LPA in place it is necessary to apply to the Court of Protection to become a deputy which takes time and is a complex and costly process. Setting up an LPA, in comparison, is a relatively straightforward process - they can be prepared at any time - so long as the person has mental capacity and as they are immediately registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), they will not require a further application once a loved one loses capacity, which can save valuable time if they are struggling. “When speaking to people, the common fear surrounding LPAs is a lack of control – but an LPA is there to protect a person. The problems occur when people leave it too late to make one. There is no specific age when you should consider making a LPA, as anyone can lose capacity regardless of age, for a whole range of reasons. If someone is diagnosed with a condition that is likely to cause capacity issues, they may well be advised to think about who they want to make decisions for them as soon as possible, before they can no longer do so themselves. “At LCF Law we always suggest making a LPA when we see clients about making or reviewing their will – it’s just good housekeeping and not costly. People can do them online, although we would always recommend using a solicitor, as LPAs are powerful legal documents and need to be done properly. People often feel more reassured when they consult a solicitor as it helps them understand the process, and by seeking proper legal advice, they have protection if things go wrong. “If there are family disagreements, complex assets such as businesses or overseas property, it is essential people use a solicitor. We have seen plenty of people who have tried to do an LPA online and inadvertently made errors in its execution, which means it is then rejected by the OPG. A lot of the DIY LPAs do not factor in relevant clauses within ‘Preferences’ and ‘Instructions’, which is where a solicitor’s advice is invaluable.” The LPA registration currently takes eight to ten weeks and it costs £82.00, unless a person earns less than £12,000 per year, and then it costs £41. People claiming certain benefits are exempt from fees. If a solicitor carries out the work, legal fees will apply. A recent report from the Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) revealed that 77% of adults in Yorkshire and the Humber are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make important decisions for themselves in later life. Amjed concluded: “We have definitely seen an increase in the number of people making LPAs over the last five years, as awareness has grown through the media and campaigns like the SFE’s ‘Choice Not Chance’. However, it is normally older people that do them, and we would very much like to see younger people engaging with the concept of an LPA. Instigating and reviewing an LPA needs to be something everyone does as a matter of course, almost like a mortgage review, and hopefully we can encourage more people to understand its benefits.”
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Emma Mortimer.