It is becoming fashionable when making a Will to instruct a solicitor or agent to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) at the same time. What are they? What is their function? Do we all need one?
A valid Will takes care of the situation after death. It ensures that one’s estate is held and distributed in accordance with stated wishes. The Executors have a statutory obligation to administer the estate according to the Will and leave no loose ends.
But what about the period prior to death? Suppose I become physically or mentally unable to look after my affairs – what happens then? My Executors cannot help because they have no authority over my affairs until I die. My family may be able to help in a limited way provided the bank will play ball. But banks and all financial institutions have to be very careful. It could get quite tricky.
This is where an LPA steps in. It is a legal document in which a person (known as the ‘donor’) appoints one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help make decisions or to make decisions on the donor’s behalf.
There are two types of LPA to choose from:
- Health and welfare
- Property and finance
Many people select both.
Health & Welfare LPA
This LPA gives attorneys the power to make decisions about such things as:
- The donor’s daily routine eg washing, dressing, eating
- Medical care
- Moving into a care home
- Life-sustaining treatment
It can only be used when the donor becomes unable to make decisions.
Property & Financial LPA
This LPA gives attorneys the power to make decisions about money and property such as:
- Managing a bank or building society account
- Paying bills
- Arranging for payment of benefits/pension
- Selling the home
It can be used as soon as it’s registered, with the donor’s permission.
Making an LPA
This needs great care because the donor is handing over to his attorneys significant control over his matters and affairs.
The process is twofold:
- Completing forms to appoint the attorneys
- Registering the LPAs
Registering an LPA
An LPA needs to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, an executive arm of the Ministry of Justice. Prior to registration persons may need to be notified formally of the intention and they are given 3 weeks in which to object. This is one of the built-in safeguards.
The registration process is reckoned to take up to 10 weeks in normal times. This will be extended with Covid-19 issues still around.
What about Enduring Powers of Attorney?
Older readers may remember EPAs which are much simpler (and much cheaper). These went out the door on 30 September 2007. After that date donors had to make LPAs. But an EPA made on or before 30 September 2007 remains valid unless the donor cancels it or dies.
EPA donors would do well to check that the document they signed years ago will be adequate today and (more important) tomorrow!
LPAs are not cheap. Most people need professional help when it comes to making and registering them. The majority of them will sit in a drawer or safe and never be used. But if an LPA is needed and there is one in place then they are invaluable.
C&H Stedman have a contact with a professional (ex-solicitor) who concentrates on Wills and/or LPAs and who does not charge VAT. We will gladly put you in touch with him if you are interested.
For more info, give us a call on 01442 202650.