In the developed world, we are living longer, and are generally better off than we ever have been, but as we age too many people are still not putting provisions in place to deal with their affairs - either after they have died, or while they are alive but unable to cope themselves.
As we live longer, one of the most common problems is that older people may sometimes feel confused and vulnerable to the fast changing world around them.
Whilst making decisions about our own lives, which is something we may now take for granted, there are issues that could affect our ability to make important decisions, including dementia, mental health problems, brain injury or the side effects of medical treatment.
None of us can look into the future and you have no way of knowing if or when accident or ill health will strike, but if it does who will make the decisions for you when you are unable to yourself? It is important to remember if you have a will in place this can only be used when you have died. So what happens if you are alive but unable to make decisions?
It makes sense to prepare and there are options by drawing up Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) enabling you to choose who makes decisions on your behalf in the event that you cannot do so yourself. There are two types:
A Property & Affairs LPA allows your chosen attorney’s to make decisions on your behalf in relation to your property and money – that is your attorney’s will be able to do anything with your finances that you would be able to do.
Meanwhile a health & welfare LPA allows your attorney’s to make decisions when you cannot in respect of things such as medical treatment and where you live. You can even authorise your attorney’s to accept or decline life sustaining treatment on your behalf.
Unfortunately, if you lose capacity and you do not have an LPA your family will not automatically be able to make decisions for you and they may have to make an application to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy, which is often a highly distressing, expensive and lengthy process.
It is important to remember that you can only prepare an LPA when you still have capacity; if it is left too late and you have lost mental capacity it can no longer be done.
When you do decide to take control, make sure you employ someone who knows what they are doing – who specialises in this field – ask what their qualifications and experience are, ask if they are a solicitor.
Lasting Powers Of Attorney need highlighting for the good of society and there is no perfect time to make them. That is why everyone who reads this should act now for the sake of themselves and their loved ones.