Lasting power of attorney

The other day, a friend of mine went to see his Mother. Being a typically dutiful son, he had not seen her for a few weeks, so was feeling rather sheepish, but was not prepared for his welcome. When she opened the door, his Mother looked at him blankly, as if he was a total stranger. It was only when he said “Hello Mum” that recognition kicked in. It made him wonder if Father Time was taking his toll. It made me think of a Lasting Power of Attorney.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) may sound like an American mini-series, but it is a very useful document that people should really have in place alongside their Will. There are two types of LPA: for financial decisions and also for health and care decisions.

The former can be exercised while you still have mental capacity. The appointed Attorney is empowered to make financial decisions on your behalf. The Attorney can pay bills, buy and sell property, arrange property repairs, run a business and make investments.

A health and care LPA can only be exercised once you have lost mental capacity. The Attorney can make major decisions, such as where you live, what you eat, who you see, what treatment you should receive and what activities you should take part in.

The LPA can be tailored to suit your wishes, so certain areas of activity can be specifically included or excluded. Clearly, the Attorney should be somebody that you trust explicitly. Even better, it should be two people that you trust explicitly. Sadly, there are plenty of occasions when the halo of trust slips with sad consequences. This is less likely when there are two people involved. One could be a professional adviser put in place to oversee the activities of the main Attorney.

The LPA will only be valid if you have the mental capacity to set it up and have not been put under any pressure to create it. It must be countersigned to this effect by a trusted third party and registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.

I would recommend that everybody has an LPA in place as mental capacity can be suddenly diminished by a serious accident or illness. However, it is especially important for the more senior members of society as our bodies seem to be increasingly outlasting our minds. As the mental powers diminish, attempting to deal with financial issues can cause frustration and confusion, sometimes leading to some awful outcomes. An LPA provides a little bit of peace of mind for everybody concerned.

If you would like any further information or to discuss any rural related matter, please contact Tom Wills, head of the agriculture & estates department at Sintons.

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