There have been a worrying number of headlines recently regarding dementia statistics such as “One in three people born in the UK this year are predicted to develop dementia in their lifetime”. This was a recent BBC headline based on information provided by Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The charity has described the forecast as a “looming national health crisis”, but there are currently more than 800,000 people in the country who are already affected by the disease. So, what can be done?
This is a question that I am often presented with when clients come in to see me at the office. Often the main concern is how family members will be able to access funds to pay for care fees.
Sometimes, a person suffering with dementia has already made an Enduring Power of Attorney (pre 1 October 2007) or a Lasting Power of Attorney, and so it is simply a case of registering the document with the Office of the Public Guardian (if it isn’t already) so that the attorneys can step in to provide assistance.
Sadly many people, for whatever reason, have never put a Power of Attorney in place. The question then is to see whether the person suffering from dementia still has sufficient mental capacity to make a Lasting Power of Attorney.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney that can be made whilst someone still has capacity.
A Lasting Power of Attorney for property and affairs allows a person to authorise someone else to look after their finances should they become physically or mentally incapable of managing them themselves. This may include paying their bills, investing money on their behalf, or even selling their home to fund care if this becomes necessary. This type of Lasting Power of Attorney can be used as soon as it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
A Lasting Power of Attorney for health and welfare allows a person to authorise someone else to make decisions regarding their welfare, including decisions about their medical treatment or the type of care home they move in to, as well as day to day issues such as diet, clothing etc. This type of Lasting Power of Attorney can only be used when the person has lost their mental capacity.
In cases where a person no longer has capacity to make a Lasting Power of Attorney then the Court of Protection needs to be involved.
Court of Protection
A family member, carer, friend or solicitor can make an application to the Court to be appointed as a deputy so that they can take over the management of that person’s affairs. The role of a deputy is very similar to that of an attorney but a deputy has an additional duty to report annually to the court. The Court of Protection process takes much longer than preparing and registering a Lasting Power of Attorney and is far more costly but is sometimes the only option.
Whilst awareness of the importance of having a Lasting Power of Attorney in place is increasing, there are still many clients without such protection in place. As people are living longer and longer, it is becoming much more likely that they will need help with their affairs at some point in their lives.
For further information regarding Lasting Powers of Attorney or Court of Protection applications please contact a member of the Wills, Tax, Trusts and Probate team on 01332 340211.