Lasting power of attorney is a legal document where you give another person or another person qualifies to make decisions on your behalf. It’s mostly experienced when taking care of an elderly relative however it can affect any person who is no longer able to make decisions (the donor).
When unable to make decisions, the donor is appointed a person who makes any decisions on their behalf (the attorney). Normally the attorney is a loved one, someone close who knows you and is able to make decisions with your best interests at heart.
Essentially though, the lasting power of attorney ensures that if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself, someone else is appointed to do so on your behalf. There are two categories the decisions fall into, property and finance as well as health and welfare.
Property and finance
The attorney has the legal authority to deal with someone else’s property and financial affairs when a donor is unable to do this for themselves.
It is designed to help the donor to have confidence that someone they trust is taking care of their property and finances in their best interest.
The donor may have previously specified and outlined how they want their property and finances to be dealt with and what they want to happen with them. It is up to the attorney to see these wishes through or make counter-decisions in the event that anything unforeseen changes in the donor’s life.
Health and welfare
The attorney has the legal authority to deal with the donor’s health and welfare and the decisions around this. It’s important to note that this is then the donor lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions.
The donor may have specified how they want decisions about their health and welfare to be handled, this could include you specifying a refusal or allowance of do not resuscitate if needed.
When to make a lasting power of attorney
Currently, 75% of people in the UK do not have a lasting power of attorney in place. The lasting power of attorney can be put in place at the same time as making a will as you’re already taking care of the future.
Lasting power of attorney can be used in a wide range of situations, diseases, and conditions related to older age: dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. But also they can be used when people suffer life-threatening illnesses or accidents: terminal and aggressive cancers and accidents resulting in brain injury.
Who to choose as an attorney
You should give careful consideration to who is appointed as your attorney. Ensure it is someone who is trusted, has the skills to make informed decisions, knows you very well, makes decisions in your best interests.
You may appoint more than one person which is quite common in families where there is more than one person looking after the elderly parent. You could also appoint a successor, should anything happen to the first choice and they are no longer able to make decisions.
Having a lasting power of attorney in place provides reassurance and peace of mind for loved ones, they know someone will be able to make decisions for you when you are unable to.
What happens when you don’t have a lasting power of attorney?
A court application may need to be made for an appropriate order. The application will be to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. This can be costly and time consuming and you may not be satisfied with the end result so it’s best to put this in place when you have the ability to do so.