By Paula Murphy
Lots of people seem to know the phrase “Power of Attorney” but do not quite know what one is or whether they should have one.
So what is a Lasting Power of Attorney? It is a legal document prepared in writing which formally appoints someone else to legally act on your behalf in the event of you being unable to do so yourself. There are different types of Powers, but the most popular has to be what is called a “Lasting Power of Attorney”. These used to be called “Enduring Powers of Attorney” until the previous system was revamped a few years ago.
There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) which are:-
property and financial affairs – this gives the attorney the authority to make decisions about your financial affairs. They can do this even while you have mental capacity
health and welfare – this gives the attorney the authority to make decisions about your personal welfare and health care
It is called a Lasting Power of Attorney because once drawn up and properly registered it will “last” beyond any future event that may render you incapable of dealing with your own personal or financial affairs. Every adult should have one; just like a Will. However, in reality, LPAs tend to be something that the more mature adult thinks about, especially those who may have more mature parents who are in frail health, hospital or in residential care.
A Lasting Power of Attorney can be drawn up with you in the space of a meeting to take your details and complete the necessary form. However, the registration process can take a number of months to complete as the forms have to be sent to the Office of the Public Guardian for processing. In the circumstances, if you or someone close to you has any kind of health condition which may deteriorate or lead to a period of hospitalisation, it would be extremely advisable to make a Lasting Power of Attorney as soon as possible so that your attorney can legally act on your behalf, should it become difficult or impossible for you to do so at some point in the future.
I learnt this myself a number of years ago when my mother-in-law was rushed into hospital with a heart attack. She spent several months in hospital and was unable to access her bank accounts, pension and most worrying for her, pay her bills. As she had not appointed anyone to act as her attorney, we were left in considerable difficulty for quite some time. Luckily, she survived to tell the tale; I learnt my lesson and as soon as she was ready she appointed her son, as her attorney.
Of the two LPAs, the most poplar is that concerning a person’s property and affairs. Consideration should also be given to appointing an attorney to deal with your personal welfare. This gives the attorney the authority to make decisions as to what medical treatment you should have and where you should live.
It is also important that you appoint someone who you trust implicitly. An attorney must act in a highly ethical manner and only in the best interests of you. An attorney can only make a decision for you if they have “reasonable belief” that you lack the mental capacity to make that particular decision.
We are all vulnerable and none of us invincible. None of us know for certain what the future holds and it is therefore vitally important that we make life as easy as we can for our families in the event of something unexpected happening.
At PGM Solicitors we can usually offer a set fee for advising and assisting you with the drafting of an LPA and registering the same at the Office of the Public Guardian. If you would like information regarding the cost in your particular case, please contact myself or one of my colleagues so that we may discuss your exact requirements and give you a very competitive quote.