The natural follow-on to talking about Making Your Will? Making your Lasting Powers of Attorney, of course! In this post we’ll be asking, ‘What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?’, ‘Why do you need one?’ and ‘How do you make one?
The Disclaimer Bit
I am not a lawyer or a solicitor and I don’t have a legal background. My job as an End of Life Planning Coach is to bring to your attention all the elements and aspects that you need to be thinking about when putting together your End of Life Plan.
One of those aspects is around your legal documentation and Lasting Powers of Attorney fall into that. So think of this blog as a signpost to useful information, but please do your own due diligence. A pretty useful mantra when it comes to any legal or health-related matters! Moving on…
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney? (LPA)
In England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland are a little different), Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that you complete and subsequently file with one of the government departments, the Office of the Public Guardian.
It is a document which only comes into effect should you lose capacity to speak for yourself. So the first thing to understand is that it is different from a Will.
I know a lot of people think that if they have a Will, they may not need a Lasting Power of Attorney but the two are concerned with two very different sets of circumstances.
Whilst a Will comes into effect after you’ve died, a Lasting Power of Attorney comes into effect whilst you’re still alive. If, for whatever reason, you can no longer speak for yourself, and are no longer able to make decisions for yourself, the Lasting Power of Attorney grants somebody else the legal right to speak on your behalf.
Two Kinds of Lasting Power of Attorney
There are two kinds of Lasting Power of Attorney. There is a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health Decisions and a Lasting Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions.
Each form requests slightly different information but they are largely the same and the process for completing and filing is identical for both.
(Note: I’m going to switch between using ‘Lasting Power of Attorney’ and ‘LPA’ for the rest of this post).
if you complete a Health Decisions LPA, you’re stating that if you can no longer speak for yourself and decisions need to be made with regards to your health and care interests, then your named attorneys have the power to make those decisions on your behalf.
Similarly, the Financial Decisions LPA states that if you’re no longer able to make decisions around money, finance or property matters, then the named attorneys are able to make those decisions for you.
You can make one or both of the LPAs, and you can name the same people for both, or different people – the choice is yours. There are a number of decisions to be made as you go complete the document but for most people, the hardest part is choosing their attorneys. Who do you trust to make these life-impacting decisions for you?
There are recommendations to help with this. For example, when it comes to your financial LPA, you probably want to choose a person, or people, who are pretty good with money or at least very comfortable making financial decisions.
When it comes to your health and care, who are the people that know you best? Who share your values and would know what you would want in a given situation? They’re probably the people to choose, assuming of course, they are willing to take on the responsibility.
Why do you need a power of attorney?
I’ve already pretty much alluded to it, but it’s so that you can grant someone else the right to speak on your behalf, if required. Why is that important? Wouldn’t they be able to do that anyway? Well, yes and no.
You may have shared your thinking, and what you would want in any given situation with the people around you, but unless it’s written down in a legal document, then their words won’t carry any weight.
A good example would be the bank. Imagine you’ve been married a really long time. You may think that your spouse is able to just pick up and take over your financial life for you, should something happen and you’re no longer able to look after your own finances.
But that’s not how the bank will see it. They need a legal document that says your spouse has the right to manage your money and a marriage certificate isn’t it.
But a Lasting Power of Attorney is.
How do you make your Lasting Powers of Attorney?
It’s surprisingly straightforward. You go to the Office of the Public Guardian website and fill the form in online. You will need some information up front, remembering the most important thing is to decide who your primary attorney, or attorneys, are. You will need their full name, address and date of birth, among other things.
For example, do you want your attorneys to be able to take decisions individually, with one person deciding what to do, or do you need them to make that decision collectively? And if for some reason they are unable to act as an attorney, do you have named replacement attorneys?
You also need to know whether you want both a Health Decisions LPA and/or a Financial Decisions LPA. Both is probably the right decision for most people, but it’s entirely up to you.
So, knowing these things in advance, you complete the online form in your own time (you can save as you go). Once you’ve completed it and you’re confident that the document reflects your wishes, then you submit it to the Office of the Public Guardian, and they process it accordingly.
Fees & Filing
Just a word on cost. At the point of form submission, you will need to pay a processing fee, which is £82 at the time of writing. So if you’re submitting both LPAs, you will need to pay the £82 fee twice.
Also, know that the filing process takes a little bit of time. On average, it takes around 12 weeks but it can take a little longer. But you should aim for this process to last three to four months. You don’t really have to do anything during that time, you just have to let it do its own thing.
The Office of the Public Guardian contact your attorneys to make sure that they know that you’ve named them and that they’re OK with it, among other things. It’s just a time-consuming process but it’s better to know this in advance.
Using a Solicitor
Of course, you could choose to hire a solicitor to do your LPAs for you. And that’s certainly an option if you have complicated circumstances of any kind. In complex situations a solicitor may be the best way for you to complete your LPA.
A solicitor is also going to be a more expensive option which is why I would highly recommend you register online so that you can see what the form involves, and the information it asks for, first. If at that point you feel that you need a bit of help, only then seek out professional to provide it.
Final thoughts on Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney is one of these documents that, with hindsight, people often wish they’d had but it’s not necessarily for everyone. There are a lot of people who don’t like LPAs, don’t want to use them, or don’t feel that they need them. And that’s a valid, personal choice.
As an End of Life Planning Coach, I think it’s a really important and useful document. If you’ve never considered making one until now, I’d encourage you to go through the process and learn more about what’s involved and why you would need one and see where it leads.
If you feel that it’s not for you, or perhaps not at this time, then at least this will be an informed decision based on measured consideration. But for many people, a Lasting Power of Attorney is an important part of their End of Life Plan.
I recognise that there is a cost to involved in making a Lasting Power of Attorney but my challenge to you is… can you afford to not make one?
Until next time, take care.