Imagine the shock. Your fit and healthy husband in his early forties has had an accident while he is out mountain biking. You are at home with your young child when you hear the news. You manage to find a chair just in time, as the blood drains from your face and your legs give way. Over the next few hours, the details start to emerge. He collided with a tree at speed and has been badly concussed. He was airlifted to hospital, where the medical team has decided to put him into a medically induced coma while they assess the swelling in his brain.
Imagine the relief. You have the right to make medical decisions on his behalf exactly when he needs it. You can access his bank accounts to make necessary payments. You can focus on what really matters; his recovery and looking after your child.
Luckily, Elizabeth did not have to rely on her Lasting Power of Attorney for long. Her husband came out of the coma after four days and was back home in another month, able to make decisions and do things for himself again. They were both so pleased that they had taken the simple step of setting up Lasting Powers of Attorney for health, welfare and financial decisions when their child was born.
Imagine the concern. Your dad died only twelve months ago and now your mum is beginning to become forgetful. She wants to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney to give you the authority to manage her finances, health and welfare when she no longer can.
Imagine the dismay. During the process, a doctor has ruled that your mum is already suffering from dementia. She no longer has the mental capacity to issue a Lasting Power of Attorney.
Now, as well as trying to work out what is best for your mum, you have to apply to the UK government for a Deputyship Order. The process is time-consuming, expensive and upsetting. It takes six months to complete.
Imagine the stress. In the meantime, your mum’s condition has worsened and she needs to move into a care home. You do not have the authority to make decisions yet, so you are liaising with the council about the care home fees with no idea about when you will be able to pay them. You do not have access to her bank accounts and cannot sell her house to pay for her care.
Anne’s children wished that she had set up the Lasting Powers of Attorney while she still had the mental capacity to do so. It was hard seeing their mum suffer, a situation that was made even harder by not having the authority to make decisions on her behalf. Just in case something ever happens to them, they have now set up their own Lasting Powers of Attorney.
Are you prepared for the unexpected?
As these stories illustrate, it is better to have Lasting Powers of Attorney in place and hope that they never need to be used, than to not have one in place when you need it.
One in fourteen people over the age of 65 suffer from dementia, but it does not just affect the elderly – there are over 42,000 people in the UK who are younger than 65 and suffering from this debilitating disease.
And, as Elizabeth’s story shows, many other issues can also cause you to lose your capacity to make decisions. In particular, if you are involved in contact or high adrenaline sports or activities, you should seriously consider setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney sooner rather than later.
What exactly is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone you trust the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf.
One type of LPA relates to property and financial affairs and the other relates to your health and welfare. The property and financial affairs LPA can be used as soon as it’s registered, but only with your permission. The health and welfare LPA can only be used when you cannot make your own decisions.
You can include some restrictions in your LPAs and choose which decisions your attorneys must make together or can make alone.
The detail related to setting up Powers of Attorney will differ country by country. If your assets are held in different countries, then you might need to set one up in each of those countries. Check out the relevant government’s website for more details. Here are the links for the UK and Switzerland.
Keren refers her financial planning clients to Victoria McLagan at English Wills and Probate Switzerland (EWPS) if they want to know more about Lasting Powers of Attorney. If you are based in Switzerland, Victoria can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their website www.ewps.ch.
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