Power of Attorney – what is it and why do you need it?

We all want to believe that life will be reasonably easy, with minimal bumps along the way. However, the truth is that as we get older, illness or even an accident can render us incapable of making our own decisions. If that happens then it’s vital that you’ve thought a step ahead and put in place a Power of Attorney to take care of your decisions on your behalf.

If your ability to make your own choices is taken away from you as a result of dementia, long-term conditions such as motor neurone disease, or a traumatic head injury, then it’s reassuring to know that your affairs will be looked after by someone of your choosing, and in the manner that you would want. This is what Power of Attorney is all about. It’s about ensuring that while you still have the ability to choose, you can put in place a safety net that will protect you once you are no longer able to make your own decisions.

Why do you need to choose someone with Power of Attorney?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affects around one in 12 of the UK’s population. It’s not just a condition that’s confined to the over-75s – there are thousands of cases every year of what is termed as ‘early-onset dementia’, which can strike people in their 50s. Degenerative diseases such as Motor Neurone Disease, although rare, affect around 5000 people in the UK and can strike at any age. Similarly, severe head trauma as a result of an accident or medical condition such as a progressive brain tumour can affect people of all ages.

Once your ability to make your own decisions about your finances or your well-being and health care has been compromised, it is up to someone else to step up and take on the role on your behalf. To allow them to do this, you have to grant an individual Power of Attorney.

Without this safeguard in place, you’ll have no decision over what happens with regard to your healthcare requirements or financial management. Without a Power of Attorney in place, the role is taken on by your local council, who will decide when and where you receive care, and whether your assets such as your family home could be sold to pay for long-term care.

A lack of a trusted person in the role could also result in your financial affairs being handed over to a stranger to manage. This could seriously impact any inheritance your chosen benefactors could receive, as your assets could be used to pay for your care.

How do you avoid this?

The simplest way to avoid handing your future over to your local council (as well-meaning as they may be), is to arrange well in advance to have someone you trust to take on Power of Attorney on your behalf. This can be easily arranged with Power of Attorney solicitors, who will be able to provide you with expert legal advice on the process from start to finish. The charity Age UK also have extensive information on how to arrange a Power of Attorney for older people.

It’s quick and easy to do. Simply book an appointment with one of our experienced private client lawyers in London, who will sit down and go through the paperwork with you. You can contact the Office of the Public Guardian to get the relevant forms and information pack, and while you can technically complete it all online yourself, our top tip is to get expert legal advice before you sign the documents to ensure you’ve completed them correctly. This could prevent any legal challenges later on.

You’ll need to get your LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) documents signed by a certificate provider, who can confirm that you haven’t been coerced or pressurised into signing the document. The document is then registered with the Office of the Public Guardian for a small fee, and within around nine weeks the status of your chosen Power of Attorney representative will be recognised and fully registered.

It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it’s an essential process that could protect both you and your loved ones should the worst happen.

If you would like to talk in confidence to an expert about arranging a Power of Attorney document, please email or phone 020 8349 0321.