In life, we never really know what challenges might be around the corner, which is why it is important to plan ahead for all eventualities.
Accidents and the diagnosis of life-changing illnesses can be unpredictable and can have a far-reaching impact on our lives, as well as on the lives of our wider families.
According to figures from the Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK – a number which it estimates will hit one million by 2025.
Being diagnosed with a life-changing condition such as dementia can have a dramatic impact on a person’s ability to make important decisions with regards to their health and welfare, or their finances.
Fortunately, in England and Wales, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 protects people aged 16 and over who have lost mental capacity.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005
This Act enables individuals in this position to make as many decisions as they can for themselves for as long as they are able to. However, it also takes into account that many people who have experienced a life-changing event or have been diagnosed with a serious illness will gradually lose capacity over a period of time as their symptoms worsen.
Due to this, the Act makes provision for individuals to appoint another person to make important decisions on their behalf by setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). These vital legal documents come in two forms:
A Property and Affairs LPA
This enables the person (or people) appointed to handle finance and property. The powers granted are very wide and all-embracing. They range from operating bank accounts and controlling income and savings to selling land and property.
This LPA can be used whether or not the person whose affairs are to be looked after has mental capacity.
A Personal Welfare LPA
A Personal Welfare LPA allows one or more trusted individuals to make important care and welfare decisions. It provides a voice with Social Services, GPs, Consultants and more.
The sort of decisions which can be made using this LPA range from the level of care which should be delivered and how it should be delivered (whether at home or in a long-term residential or nursing home setting) to the giving or refusing of consent to life-sustaining treatment.
Unlike a Property and Affairs LPA, a Personal Welfare LPA can only be used when there is no capacity to make the decision which needs to be made.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
Families who wish to set up either kind of LPA should always seek specialist legal advice, to ensure that they fully understand the process and can be guided through by an expert step-by-step.
In recent times, there has been a significant increase in abuse of the elderly in instances where an ill-advised person has been appointed to make decisions on their behalf. This has become a big problem at a time when 750,000 Britons are consigning their money, legal and healthcare affairs to friends and family every single year.
When making important decisions such as these, it is import to appoint the right person and speak to an expert adviser who can walk you through the process and help you to make an informed decision.