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My uncle seems incapable of making decisions and the bills are piling up — does the lasting power of attorney he has given me automatically take effect?

An attorney cannot use a lasting power of attorney (LPA) until it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. An LPA can be registered at any time, so your uncle’s LPA may be registered already.

If you need to register the LPA, you may want to apply as soon as possible. Your uncle will be notified that you have applied, so you should discuss this with him first. His nearest relatives may also be notified. Once you have applied, you will have to wait at least six weeks. If anyone objects to the registration, it may not happen at all.

Even once it has been registered, it may not automatically take effect:

  • A health and welfare LPA only takes effect once your uncle has lost the capacity to make decisions for himself.
  • A property and financial affairs LPA may come into effect as soon as it is registered, or may say that it only takes effect once your uncle has lost mental capacity. 

Once the LPA comes into effect, you should talk to your uncle about it. Even if he is no longer fully capable, you should try to involve him in decisions about his own affairs. If you need to check whether your uncle has mental capacity, you should do this for each decision — your uncle may be capable of making some decisions for himself, but not others. If necessary, you may want to take legal advice or get a medical opinion.

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