While most people recognise the importance of making a will, fewer people are aware of the benefits of having a lasting power of attorney.
Without a power of attorney your finances and health could be at risk in the event of an accident, a serious debilitating accident, or a decline in mental health.
You might think that if you become unable to deal with your finances, a relative or friend will be able to step in and help out. In reality, they would run into difficulties unless they have proper legal authority.
Without a lasting power of attorney your relatives would have to apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed as your receiver, a process which can be extremely lengthy and very costly.
By making a lasting power of attorney you can give someone you trust that legal authority to act on your behalf if, in the future, you become incapable of managing your financial affairs. You can appoint one or more people of your choosing to act as your attorney, and they will need to sign the forms to say they agree to take on the responsibility.
This is not just a consideration for the elderly. It is equally important for the young, fit and healthy to have proper plans in place for the future. There can be lots of situations which might make it difficult to cope, such as physical disability, mental impairment, an accident or a stroke, as well as advancing years.
There are two types of lasting power of attorney:
Property and financial – grants authority for things such as selling your house and managing your bank account or business. It can be used from the moment it is registered but is limited to the scope of the powers you grant.
Personal welfare – grants authority for decisions about your health and welfare, such as where you will live, day-to-day care and medical treatment. It will only take effect if you lack the capacity to make decisions for yourself.
Provided you are mentally competent you can create a lasting power of attorney at any age over eighteen. It will only become valid once it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. It will only come into force on the conditions you specify.
Setting your wishes out will make it easier for your relatives who may have to handle your affairs in the future.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should.