No one wants to think about a time in the future when you cannot make decisions for yourself; however, a little forward planning can mean that when the time comes, your family can help you organise your affairs. If left until you do not have capacity, it can mean complicated, long winded and expensive legal procedures. It has to be said, even organising a Power of Attorney when everyone involved is capable of consenting, is quite a long winded process.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enables someone else to manage your affairs when you are no longer able to do so. An older person can nominate a relative or close friend to be their power of attorney when they reach this point in their life. None of us likes to think of a time when we can no longer manage our own affairs, but it’s reassuring to know that there are procedures in place which should help someone else to do it for us.
In October 2007 the LPA replaced the old system "Enduring Power of Attorney" (EPA). This means that Power of Attorney can now only be given to an individual if a person has agreed to it when they have sufficient mental capacity. Many individuals organise relevant POA when they are fit and healthy.
If an EPA arrangement was made before 2007 it can still be used whether it has been registered or not. If this isn't the case then the person trying to gain power of attorney will need to follow the correct legal process through the Court of Protection. There are two types of LPA – one for Property and Financial Affairs and one for Health and Welfare.
A Health and Welfare LPA allows you to choose someone to make decisions about your health and personal welfare should you no longer be able to do so. Your appointed attorney or attorneys will only be able to make decisions once the LPA is registered and provided that you are no longer able to make these important decisions yourself.
Your relative might already have a solicitor they know and trust, but in addition to this there is a specialist organisation called Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE). The SFE are able to recommend you on the steps that need to be taken when you're deciding Power of Attorney and can also assist in making sure your best interests are sought.
The SFE can also appoint a solicitor who is trained in methods of communicating with elderly people who may have disabilities.