With the number of people diagnosed with dementia in the UK rising rapidly, charities and universities are urging people to consider the importance of setting up a lasting power of attorney (LPA).
The latest research from the Alzheimer’s Society predicts that the number of dementia cases in the UK is likely to increase by 156 per cent between now and 2021 – yet many recent studies have revealed a distinct lack of awareness of lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) across the UK.
Simply put, a lasting power of attorney is a legal document which gives relatives or carers authority to handle the property and financial affairs of a loved one who is no longer able to look after themselves, or has lost the ‘mental capacity’ to do so. The lasting power of attorney can also confer authority over an individual’s health, care and welfare – including the power, if the need arises, to determine whether life sustaining medical treatment should be continued with.
A year-long study carried out by the University of Plymouth recently found a widespread ‘lack of LPA awareness’ among Britain’s agricultural community.
The research found that farmers and agricultural businesses had a very limited knowledge of what legal options are available to them in the event that they are affected by dementia or other conditions that may leave them unable able to run their farming business.
The same study found that very few farmers keep their Wills up to date, or understand the importance of doing so.
Meanwhile, Diverse Abilities, a learning disability charity based in South West England, has found that many families “do not even think about putting a LPA in place, because they assume their loved ones would automatically have this power”.
The charity has warned: “This is not the case in English Law and if you or a family member lose capacity and have not made a LPA, a relative can’t just step in and act on their behalf.
“[This] could cause much distress, expense and frustration in the future – normally at a time that it is not needed”.
A lasting power of attorney can be drawn up by seeking specialist legal advice, so as to make sure that the LPA is correctly drawn up to include provisions most appropriate to individual circumstances and to protect the business interests. However, recent studies have found that around 85 per cent of UK adults do not have one, and are unprepared for what the future may hold.