For most of our adult lives, we take the ability to make our own decisions and take care of our own affairs for granted. But for some of us, this privilege can be taken away. Through illness or accidents, we can lose the mental capacity to look after ourselves and make decisions that are in our own best interests.

This becomes especially prevalent later in life, when arguably making decisions about your care and well-being becomes most critical.

Power of attorney is a legal principle that seeks to provide a safety net for people who find themselves in this position. It allows a person (known as a donor) to appoint someone else (the attorney) to take legal charge of managing their affairs should they become incapable of doing so.

The key stipulation is that the donor has to be judged to have the mental capacity to make that decision when they sign over power of attorney. It’s therefore commonly used as part of later life planning, making provision ahead of time in case an individual reaches a point where they need assistance with their care and other matters.

Lasting power of attorney

Lasting power of attorney (LPA) was brought into law by the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It replaced and expanded on the previous principle of enduring power of attorney.

There are two types of lasting power of attorney:

  1. Property and Financial Affairs LPA: This gives the appointed attorney(s) the authority to manage the donor’s financial affairs, such as buying or selling property, paying bills, managing bank accounts, and making investment decisions. The donor can choose to activate the LPA immediately or specify that it should only come into effect if they lose mental capacity.
  2. Health and Welfare LPA: This type of LPA grants the attorney the power to make decisions about the donor’s health and personal welfare, including medical treatment, care arrangements, and daily routine. The LPA can only be used when the donor lacks the capacity to make these decisions themselves.

A donor can choose to appoint more than one person as their attorney. This means an individual can hand over joint responsibility to their children, if they have more than one.

LPAs are not permanent. Once agreed and activated, they can be revoked at a later date. This allows for situations where, for example, a person might become seriously ill and face a lengthy spell in hospital, and want someone to handle their affairs in the interim. Once they are well enough again, the LPA can end and they can take back control.

Setting up an LPA is done through the Office of the Public Guardian. Forms are available to download and submit online. There is an £82 fee for registering both types of LPA, although there are discounts if you are on a low income or receive benefits.

As an LPA is a legal document, you may prefer to hire a solicitor to complete the process on your behalf. This also comes with the advantage that you can have the details of what an LPA does and does not involve explaining, so you can be sure you are making the right decision.

Get in touch with Walsh solicitors today to find out more.