What, why, how: Lasting Powers of Attorney
What are they?
A client once described them to me as a ‘living will’, which I think is a good description. It’s a legal document produced by the Office of the Public Guardian which allows you to appoint individuals – attorneys – to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.
Say you have an accident or develop dementia – which can happen at any age – your attorney(s) can step into your shoes and make decisions on your behalf.
There are two forms of LPA:
- Health and welfare: your attorneys can make decisions regarding your health and your social services care. That might for example involve talking to the NHS about your treatment and where you might be treated, and where you might go once you’re discharged, whether that’s to your home or a care home.
- Property & Affairs: this is all about the financial side of things, your attorneys can make financial decisions on your behalf. Say your home isn’t the most appropriate one for you to live in because of a change in your circumstances; your attorney can sell your property and move you somewhere more suitable, and have the money invested on your behalf.
A good example of the latter is a pension: if you need to claim on your pension after losing capacity but you haven’t already done so, your attorney will have to do that on your behalf. In that situation, it’s very difficult for financial professionals to make decisions and act in your best interest if you don’t have an attorney. If you do, the financial professionals work with your attorney to release the money in your pension to help pay for the care you now need.
Aren’t LPAs just for older people?
They’re commonly associated with the elderly going in to care, which is a shame because that’s a complete misconception. People think ‘Oh, my grandparents have one, I don’t need to do this yet,’ but you do. People have car accidents, fall off things and hit their head, or lose their faculties. Those things can happen to anyone, not just the elderly. LPAs are important.
What if I have an Enduring Power of Attorney?
The LPA’s predecessor is called an Enduring Power of Attorney, which stopped being offered on 1 October 2007. The LPA is more comprehensive and you might want to consider arranging one, but it’s not essential.
What happens if I don’t have an LPA?
If you don’t have either and LPA or EPA, someone will need to apply for a deputyship from the court of protection in order to be able to make decisions about your estate. It’s incredibly expensive – you’re talking thousands of pounds, as outlined below:
How do I arrange my LPAs?
You can do LPAs yourself by going to the Office of the Public Guardian website. Before you get the forms there, you can download a handy sheet on this website to fill out your answers before you complete them on.
The reason I suggest you go through the answers this way first is because if you fill out the form yourself and your application is rejected because of an error, your application fee will not be refunded – you’ll need to pay again upon further applications. The OPG helpline is very good, so use that if you need to.
How much does an LPA cost?
Doing an LPA yourself costs around £82, but if your annual earnings are £12,000 per year or less then that fee comes down to £42. Remember there are two types of LPA, so you’ll need to double that cost. If there are two of you in a partnership, you’ll need four between you.
If you’re on certain means-tested benefits you can get a waiver on the fees, so there’s not really an excuse for someone not to sort out their LPAs.
In addition, if you appoint someone to draft one for you – the questions you’ll have to answer for the LPA are reasonably complex – then you’re probably looking in the region of £150-200 per attorney in addition to the fees above. You can appoint a solicitor or send it in to me here to complete that process for you.
Who’s involved in an LPA?
You – the donor.
Your attorneys – people you trust to make decisions on your behalf. This depends on your own situation, but typically this will be your life partner or grown-up children. You have to trust these people: they have what’s called a fiduciary responsibility to act in your interests and not their own, but they do have complete control.
Certificate provider – the professional such as myself who will write and provide the LPA. If you’re doing the LPA yourself, it’s someone who has known you for at least two years.