Lasting Power of Attorney

What is the point of having a Lasting power of Attorney you might ask?

Whether it is a blessing or a curse people rarely know what life holds for them. One of the things that can happen is a loss of mental capacity brought about by illness, stroke or dementia.

If this happens there is a need in most cases for another person to have legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the person who can’t.

This can be achieved in two different ways. A Lasting Power of Attorney (“LPA”) can give powers to one or more nominated attorneys or the Court of Protection can appoint a deputy to do the same.

The Court of Protection route has serious drawbacks and most people would say it is far from the best way of granting someone the requisite legal authority. The process is slow typically taking 4-6 months to have a deputy appointed. The fees associated with the application to appoint a deputy are quite high and if a solicitor is used that is another hefty cost. There is an annual fee in most cases as well and substantial transactions, e.g. selling a house, may require a special court hearing for approval, which again incurs substantial fees.

By making an LPA the donor (the person who makes the LPA) can choose someone he or she trusts to be the attorney. The donor can also grant or restrict specific powers within the LPA. There is also a facility to offer guidance and whilst not binding it can be useful to assist the attorney in the process of making decisions.

It is possible for anyone to make their own LPA and simply pay the costs of registration which is currently £130. People on low income may be able to register at the reduced rate of £65.

However many people chose to use a lawyer to help with the process. The forms can be a little intimidating and the scope of powers to grant can also cause confusion or uncertainty.

So the complexity coupled with the fact that any errors or unworkable powers ‘granted’ to attorneys can be grounds for rejection are good reasons to get the right help. In fact the delay caused by a rejected LPA could be a critical issue if the donor was in decline and might lose capacity.

Looking at some of the problems caused by loss of capacity, one that can create havoc real hardship is the freezing of bank accounts. Any bank account including a joint bank account will be frozen until some legal authority is available to unfreeze it. Just imagine what could happen if most of your money was tied up in a frozen account for 4 – 6 months. This alone can be a good enough reason to get a Lasting Power of Attorney.