There’s an awful lot that’s uncertain in life.
Whatever your circumstances – and wherever it is you imagine you’re heading – all sorts of things can surprise us. Considering the current worldwide situation, you probably won’t need to use your imagination to come up with any potentially surprising scenarios.
We may be biased lawyer-types, but we do think there’s a lot of value in the practice of getting all your papers in order. Not only will this allow you to enjoy the kind of smug peace-of-mind that comes from being well-organised, your family and loved ones will also be able to share in this too.
The obvious thing to consider here is whether or not you have a will in place – and if you do, whether it’s still valid. We covered this in a previous adventure in morbid blogging, which should probably come with a trigger warning for bus-related road incidents.
However, wills aren’t the only important documents to consider here. There are other legal papers that can make a big difference to how easily your loved ones are able to support you in the future. Chief among these are Lasting Powers of Attorney, though you might prefer to refer to them by the much snappier title of ‘LPAs’.
What are Lasting Powers of Attorney?
LPAs are a group of documents an individual can put in place to ensure their loved ones can make key decisions for them in the future. If you were to become incapacitated as a result of an illness, accident or mental health breakdown, you wouldn’t be able to tell anyone how you wanted your financial, or health and care needs to be met.
Step in LPAs. Within these documents you can set out two key things:
- What your wishes would be in these scenarios (for example, if you’d like to be cared for at home or in a medical facility, or whether you’d like your home to be sold to keep your cat in diamond collars)
- Which individuals you nominate to make these decisions on your behalf
There are two types of LPAs: one deals with financial issues and the other deals with health and care needs. If you’re going to the effort of making one, it’s almost certainly worth your time to make both.
Are LPAs really needed?
Yes! And again, for those at the back: yes!
A lot of people think that if you were in an accident, say, or developed dementia, your next of kin would be able to automatically step in and start making care decisions and paying utility bills on your behalf. Unfortunately, this is as much of an urban legend as Bloody Mary appearing if you chant her name three times into a mirror.
If you were to become incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently, and didn’t have an LPA in place, the only way your loved ones would be able to start making decisions on your behalf would be to go to court for an order of deputyship. This could be a long and stressful process… and would probably be precisely the last way your loved ones should be spending their energy at such a difficult time.
How do you make an LPA?
Now that we’ve covered what exactly an LPA is and why you might consider making one, the next question is how you would go about it.
The first step here is to get in touch with your solicitor and ask them to help you with this. They will support you in making all the necessary decisions and will then put all the necessary paperwork together for you.
You’ll need to decide:
- Who you would want to nominate to make decisions on your behalf. This needs to be at least one person, though it could be a whole party of people, if you were so inclined. This person, or people, will be known as attorneys.
If you’re married or in a civil partnership, this might be an easy decision. However, if you’re single or widowed – or if you just don’t think your spouse is up to the job – you’ll need to consider other options. You might want to name a grown-up child, a sibling, a parent or a close friend. If you don’t have anyone you could rely on for this, you could ask your solicitor to act for you as a professional attorney. There are extra costs involved in this, but it’s a great solution for many people.
- How you want your attorneys to work together if you have more than one. Would you like them to work together jointly, which means they can only make decisions all together, or would you be happy with them working jointly and severally, which means they will make some decisions all together but can act independently when necessary?
- Whether you’d like to appoint any replacement attorneys. This would ensure your LPA was still valid if your first attorneys were no longer in a position to act for you.
- Whether you would like to put specific requests or instructions in writing for your attorneys. This isn’t always necessary: you may feel you can share your wishes with your chosen attorneys without needing to put them in writing.
- When you would like your attorneys to start acting for you: as soon as the LPA has been registered (with your consent, of course!) or only when you’re no longer able to make decisions on your own.
How quickly can an LPA be used?
We won’t beat around the bush: we’re living through particularly uncertain times and you may want your peace of mind to be in place right away. If this is the case, your solicitor will be able to work to get your LPA written, signed and registered as soon as possible. It usually takes up to eight weeks to register an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian.
Would you like further advice on Lasting Powers of Attorney and how you might benefit from having one in place? We may all be working in a different way to usual at the moment, but we’re still very much available to help you with this. Why not give us a shout?