The vulnerabilities of old age mean taking out a legal power of attorney (LPA) is a sensible precaution.
The coronavirus pandemic has put into stark perspective the need for formal arrangements whereby your loved ones can step in should an emergency arise.
In 1789 Benjamin Franklin declared there were only two things certain in life – taxes and death.
Covid 19 has proved an important reminder, if one were required, of the need to face the inevitable and do something about it.
A reminder of what an LPA involves …
It allows a person to choose one or more individuals, known as attorneys, to handle their affairs in the event that they are no longer able to do so themselves. Attorneys are usually trusted family members or friends, or perhaps a legal professional. An LPA must be put in place while a person has the mental capacity to do so.
There are two types – health and welfare and property and financial affairs. The former covers things like choices around care plans, medical treatment and end of life wishes. The latter deals with the management of property, other assets, bank accounts and bill payments.
LPAs have come into their own in the present crisis.
It has allowed a trusted person to carry out day-to-day tasks for you such as interacting with public and private organisations like the council or a bank. This has been especially useful for those in a vulnerable group who have not been able to leave their home.
So, for example, sons and daughters have had the authority to use their parent’s bank accounts to pay bills and purchase food and other necessities on their behalf.
Where an LPA has not been in place, lockdown, social distancing and self-isolation has meant it has been harder to rectify the matter.
Formerly a straight forward task, it has required much more thought.
It has been possible to post an LPA to a signee or deliver it by hand. However, everyone involved has had to keep at least two metres apart and wash their hands before and after handling the document.
A witness must watch the donor signing the LPA and then sign it themselves to say they have witnessed the signature. Similarly, each attorney’s signature must be witnessed. A friend or neighbour can do this at a distance outside the house. A signature can be witnessed through a closed window.
More complicated, yes, and registration delays at the Office of the Public Guardian have meant the usual eight-week process prone to being extended. Nevertheless, it is too important to be ignored – your financial advisor or solicitor can advise on the overall merits and how best to go about it.
Unfortunately, too many of us do not want to confront our own mortality.
More than one third of people admit to not having made any provisions for later life such as writing a will or creating an LPA.
Yet, dementia has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death.
According to consumer champions Which, the number of health and welfare LPAs being registered annually doubled in the last five years to 390,988 in 2019-20. However, Alzheimer’s Research UK predicts one million people in the UK will have dementia by 2025 and this will increase to two million by 2050.
The gap between the two illustrates the extent of the challenge.
A failure to draw up a will and LPA can impose huge burdens and distress on the family. Planning ahead should not be seen as doom and gloom. It is a case of being prepared should the worst happen.