LEGAL CORNER: It’s vital to plan ahead when it comes to lasting power of attorney

With a growing elderly population, most are conscious of the need to plan ahead for a time when they may not be capable of handling their own affairs.

Commonly, people are concerned that they may be incapable due to dementia or alzheimer’s disease, but there can also be many physical reasons why someone may lose capacity – severe strokes being the most common.

No-one can be certain of what the future holds.

A power of attorney is a document by which a person (the donor) confers power on another person (the attorney) to act on their behalf.

It could be argued that as soon as a person attains, 70, or even 60, he or she should grant a lasting power of attorney (‘lpa’) to their children, if they have them, or a trusted friend or professional adviser.

Of course, the donor can continue to manage his or her own affairs despite the grant of a lasting power, and so it is often sensible for a person to grant a lasting power on the understanding that it will not be exercised whilst the donor retains his or her faculties.

There are two types of lpa: One for property and financial affairs, and one for health and welfare.

The attorney of a property and financial affairs lpa can deal with essential matters, such as bank accounts and investments, paying bills including nursing home fees, pensions, income tax and the sale 
of property.

The health and welfare lpa allows the attorney to make decisions on behalf of the donor with regards to clinical decisions, including end-of-life decisions.

It is fundamental to the granting of an lpa that the donor must have mental capacity.

It is therefore essential to plan ahead and consider which trusted family member or friend you would like to be your attorney while you are fit and able to do so.

Tragically, many people leave this far too late, burdening their family with immense problems as without an lpa they will not be able to ‘sort it out’ as people often mistakenly believe.

It may leave someone a protected party in the court of protection, a costly and bureaucratic institution, just at the time when somebody is at their most vulnerable, needing a great deal of care.

The motto must therefore be to plan well ahead!