Many of you will not even have heard of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). They used to be called Enduring Power of Attorney. Everybody knows they ought to have a Will – although many don’t get around to it until it’s too late – but few understand why the LPA is an essential piece of planning.

If you do not have an LPA then the Court of Protection will be in control of your assets and welfare should you become incapacitated.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone (or several people) you trust as an ‘attorney’ to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapable of managing your own affairs. This could include such things as bank accounts, overdrafts, credit cards, savings, investments, property, and your own personal welfare.

Attorneys can make decisions for you when you no longer wish to or when you lack the mental capacity to do so.

Without an LPA, these decisions will be made by the Court of Protection and your relatives will have to apply to the court to be appointed as your deputy. They will have to pay fees just to access your bank accounts and pay your bills. They may even feel as if they are under suspicion of trying to defraud you, even as they try their best to look after you.

Only if a relative is given power of attorney before you become mentally incapacitated will they be able to avoid applying to the court and the Office of the Public Guardian for the right to control your assets later.

Should your family eventually be appointed as your deputy, assuming the authorities deem them fit, they will still have to pay ongoing fees to the Office of the Public Guardian who supervise the deputy. These fees are not trivial. Deputies, whether or not they are your relatives, must still get authorisation to pay bills such as your household bills, mortgage or rent.

Only by appointing attorneys in advance via carefully considered LPAs can you ensure your family and loved ones avoid a stressful bureaucratic and legal minefield should you become incapacitated. And while you are considering that thought, remember you could be facing the bureaucracy yourself if others in your family do not have LPAs.

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