The number of people making use of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) has increased enormously in recent years. In fact, according to data from a Freedom of Information request, the number of LPAs has increased threefold since 2010.
This is undoubtedly a good thing; LPAs allow someone to nominate an ‘attorney’ – usually a friend or loved one or a professional such as ourselves – to step in and make decisions on their behalf should they no longer be able to do so.
The significance of Health and Welfare Powers of Attorney (H&W LPA) were highlighted in a recent case on withdrawal of life support. Historically, where there was no H&W LPA, it has been necessary to involve a judge in decision making. The High Court ruling said that where the medical professionals and family members all agreed that withdrawal of life support was in the patients “best interests”, the additional safeguard was unnecessary. The ruling may end up going all the way to the Supreme Court, but it does emphasise the benefit of giving power under a H&W LPA to trusted friends or family members to allow them to make this kind of important decision without having to dabble at the edges of the current state of the law or involve the Courts.
The number of people with dementia is also rising – according to the Alzheimer’s Society there are currently 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and that is expected to pass the million mark by 2025. As a result, an LPA is an excellent piece of planning, ensuring that someone you trust is able to make decisions in your best interest should the need arise.
But what about the people that are asked to be an attorney? What does it mean for them?
For starters, it is important to note that this is a significant responsibility. Generally, people are advised to select reliable people to be their attorney, as there may be a lot of administration involved, such as sorting out a care home and keeping on top of paying the care fees. You will need to keep up-to-date records of the ‘donor’s’ affairs too.
At all times, you will need to act in the best interests of the person asking you to be their attorney, acting in accordance with the terms of the LPA.
What is more, you cannot ask anyone else to take over your duties unless the donor has authorised you to do so.
All of this will be unpaid too, though you will be able to claim reasonable expenses. If you believe that it may be too much for you, then it is important to speak to the donor in advance of the LPA being registered, before it is too late.
If you need help or advice about any area of estate planning please contact us.