There may come a day when your loved ones are unable to make a decision on their future care. There are steps you can take to ensure that decision rests with you, the family – so you can be sure their later years are spent where they would have wanted to be. This is called Power of Attorney, which is a legal document where one person (the donor) gives others (their attorneys) the right to make decisions on their behalf.
Clive Barwell, a Wren Sterling financial adviser and expert on later years finances, said: “If you have to go into care, for example, because of arthritis or you’ve had a stroke but your mental capacity is absolutely fine, then you can make the decision about your own care.
“But if you’ve lost capacity due to dementia or a brain injury, for example, without Power of Attorney the family are in a weak position to decide what care dad or mum should have. The local authority has a statutory duty to provide care for people in their locality. The local authority could make decisions without needing to consult or take the family’s wishes into account – which will obviously have an emotional effect on the family at this difficult time.
“They will consult, but if it comes to a disagreement for which is the most important form of care in the absence of this Power Of Attorney, then they will consider that their opinion is more important.”
There are two types or Power of Attorney
- A Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney which covers decisions affecting bank accounts, investments, bill payments and pensions amongst other things.
- A Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney which applies to medical and care needs which includes deciding whether you live in your own home or residential care.
Choose the Power of Attorney you would like to set up or you can have both.
What you need to do
- Pick your attorney(s) – the trustworthy person or people that are appointed to make decisions on your behalf;
- You, your attorneys and your witnesses all sign;
- Complete separate forms with a ‘certificate provider’ (often your doctor) who confirms your mental capacity, and by each of your chosen attorneys;
- The forms are returned to a Government body, the Office of the Public Guardian, with payment. They send back a stamped copy of the Power of Attorney to prove it has been accepted and registered. Without this stamp it is not valid;
- You can lodge the stamped copy with a solicitor if you wish, to keep it safe.
A retired member, Mr Williams from Mapperley, Nottingham, has set up a Power of Attorney for him and his wife which would be jointly operated by their sons. He said: “When you are dealing with big decisions like residential care or your finances you have to be sure the people you choose will act in your best interest.
“We have organised it between myself and my wife in the first instance then after that it’s our children. You can get a solicitor to do it if you haven’t got any relatives or someone you can trust. It’s all to do with peace of mind, knowing you will get what you want when you can’t legally make the decision.”
Lasting Power of Attorney set up since 2007 can cover both health/welfare as well as property/finance issues. People who set up Enduring Power of Attorney before then may need to change their arrangements to cover loss of mental capacity as it would not have been in the original document. Seek legal guidance if you are unsure about establishing a Power of Attorney.
The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate legal services.
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