Whilst almost a million people have chosen to make Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) since these were introduced in 2007, there is a real concern about the vast majority of those LPAs only relating to property and financial affairs and not to health and welfare issues.
By only focussing on property and financial affairs, many people ignore the choice available to them, whilst they still have mental capacity, to appoint attorneys to decide later how and where the donor should be cared for if they develop a condition that affects their mental capacity.
In particular, Health and Welfare LPAs can help people specify details about where they wish to live, what day to day care they should receive and what treatment they should undergo. The LPA can even allow the attorneys to give or refuse consent to life sustaining treatment. It can also help the donor’s family and medical/health professionals as the LPA clearly states the details and extent of authority of the attorneys.
Hauke Harrack, a solicitor in Hewitsons’ Private Client Team, says: “Many people forget that their next of kin do not have any legal standing, so that they cannot be certain that medical or health professionals will consult with the spouse or other family members who you would expect to be consulted. With a Health and Welfare LPA the details are in one place and it is clear who has the authority to make decisions, namely someone you know and trust. However, people need to be told that this is possible under an LPA and from experience I know that many do not know this.”
A recent research report commissioned by the Office of the Public Guardian confirms that many people are either not aware of LPAs generally, or they are not aware that, apart from property and financial affairs, an LPA can also be used to make plans for health and welfare. Some people are also reluctant to address the issue of a potential loss of capacity now and prefer to wait until the need arises. However, this then often makes the preparation of LPAs more complicated as the donor may no longer have the required capacity to make the LPA.
Hauke adds: “Why leave important decisions about your health and welfare to people you do not know? LPAs are an excellent way of putting arrangements in place now whilst you are able to do so by appointing those who know you best and who you can trust to make the right decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so yourself.”
If you would like to discuss the preparation of LPAs or have any general questions in relation to LPAs, please contact Hauke on 01604 233233 or e-mail him by clicking here.