In the Winter of 2015, I received the shocking news that a dear friend had suffered a stroke. This was a huge shock as she was in her late 30s and healthy, and having a stroke was not something that I had associated with younger people before.
I visited her in the hospital weekly and watched as her and her family tried to remain positive during such an emotional and challenging time. Initially the hospital was unable to confirm whether or not she would be able to talk or have full mobility again, however, age was on her side and by the New Year she was back home and pretty much back to her old self.
She was one of the lucky ones and we and thankfully, this period of uncertainty was only for a limited time and we now have our old friend back to her old self. As we all know, this is not always the case and both young and old can be subject to huge life adjustments after a stroke, which can result in the need for daily carers and a loss of independence.
After my friend made a full recovery one of the things she asked me was what would have happened if she had not fully recovered and required assistance daily with her affairs. As a wills and probate lawyer, I deal with concerns like this every day, however, being faced with the reality of how quickly someone’s life can change overnight really puts into perspective the importance of legal documents such as a lasting power of attorney (LPA). It is for this reason why I go on so much about lasting powers of attorney to family and friends over the dinner table as such a simple document can protect us all should we find ourselves in such unimaginable circumstances.
So what is a lasting power of attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney(LPA) is an extremely powerful document. Whilst a Will takes care of your affairs in the event of your death, a Lasting Power of Attorney takes care of your affairs during your lifetime when you require additional help, or when you are no longer able to make important decisions yourself.
Your LPA enables you to choose the people to assist you in these circumstances and these people are called your attorneys.
What kind of lasting power of attorney do I need?
There are two different types of LPA, one which deals with your property and financial affairs and one which deals with your health and care decisions.
Property and Financial Affairs: this LPA allows your attorneys to assist you with your bank accounts, paying bills and renting or selling property. Your attorneys can assist you with these matters with your consent while you have capacity, or on your behalf if you no longer have capacity.
Health and Care Decisions: this LPA allows your attorneys to make decisions about your health and care. It includes what you eat, what you wear and where you live. You can even instruct your attorneys to make decisions about end of life care. This LPA cannot be used unless you have lost capacity and are no longer able to make decisions about yourself.
Lasting powers of attorney are legal documents, they are to be used during your lifetime and they end on your death.
When should I get a lasting power of attorney?
Adults of all ages should consider putting both LPAs and Wills in place. It is a misconception that LPAs are only relevant if you are suffering with an illness of the mind such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s, however one of the hard lessons during the last 12 months of the Pandemic, is that younger people can end up in a coma or seriously ill and without having an LPA in place, there is nobody appointed to look after their affairs.
It is important to note that Lasting Powers of Attorney can only be made if you have the capacity to do so. It is too late to create an LPA if you are unable to give instructions due to a lack of capacity and therefore it is important to put these documents in place sooner rather than later.
LPAs can also be cancelled should you wish to do so, after they have been registered.
I know that this is not a subject that any of us like to think about, however, once made an LPA can be put away and forgotten about but at least it gives you and your family peace of mind that should you be unable to make any decisions for yourself in the future, you know and trust the people who would be making these decisions on your behalf.