What is Lasting Power of Attorney ?
The Power of Attorney is an authorization to represent somebody else’s interest and act on their behalf in relation of personal matters, healthcare, finance and more. The person who is authorizing somebody else to act on their behalf is known as the principal, donor or grantor. The person acting on their behalf is known as the agent or attorney.
It’s normally used when someone is unable to make their own decisions. For example if they suffer from a degenerative disease which leaves them unable to communicate, or suffer a brain injury or other mind-altering event.
Those who have been granted the Lasting Power of Attorney can make decisions about medical care, care packages, life-sustaining treatments, property and financial affairs, paying bills, receiving benefits and more.
Unfortunately, I know all about the Power of Attorney from personal experience. When my father had a heart attack two years ago the paramedics had a lot of trouble resuscitating him. His brain was starved of oxygen for some minutes and he suffered an hypoxic brain injury. Although he still knew who we were and who he was, much of his knowledge had been lost. And he certainly lost the capability to make informed decisions about finance and his own care.
Power of Attorney became a big issue when my mother started to receive phone calls from credit card companies and other companies who my father had financial relationships with. She would repeatedly explain that he was in no fit state to talk to them about his credit card bill or monthly payment plan, at which point the caller would refuse to talk to her. Just because she wouldn’t be able to answer the security questions.
It was only once Lasting Power of Attorney was granted that she could begin to talk to banks and other institutions about my father’s financial affairs. It was a relief, as we were unable to do things like payoff his credit card bill – accruing additional charges as a result. There might be more important matters at hand than some late fees but knowing my father, he’d be pleased that we felt organizing his financial matters was important.
Lasting Power of Attorney
In England Wales the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPAs) was introduced under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It was created for people who can foresee a point in the future when they will lack the capacity to look after their personal and financial affairs to appoint a trusted family member or friend to make decisions on their behalf.
There are two types of LPA; Property and Affairs LPA and Personal Welfare LPA. The former allows attorneys to make decisions about property and finance while the latter allows them to make decisions about their personal welfare, i.e. healthcare.
Who can be an attorney?
An attorney can be anyone who is 18 or over, including friends, relatives, professionals (such as solicitors) or a spouse. Anyone under 18 or who has been declared bankrupt cannot become the attorney.
In many ways an LPA is as important as a will. It offers the same sort of peace of mind; that their financial and personal matters will be handled by a trusted individual in the event that they become unable to, or lack the capacity to, make good decisions for themselves.