As we get older, it’s possible that our mental capacity begins to decline, and our decision-making abilities are affected.
That’s why, whenever someone joins us as a resident here at Fulford, we always ask about who will make the important decisions regarding care and finances when our resident is no longer able to. In other words, “Do you have a lasting power of attorney?”
In this short guide, we explain what a power of attorney is, why it matters, and how to set it up.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a way of giving someone you trust (such as a spouse, partner, child over the age of 18, relative, or friend) the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf.
There are a few different types of power of attorney you can choose from:
- Ordinary power of attorney – This gives your appointed attorney temporary power to make financial decisions on your behalf. An ordinary power of attorney is valid while you still have mental capacity (meaning you still have the ability to understand the decisions you need to make, why you need to make them, and the likely consequences of your actions). It’s typically used when you’re briefly unable to handle your own affairs (such as paying bills on time) due to a hospital stay, injury, or illness, for example.
- Lasting power of attorney (LPA) – This covers your financial affairs and decisions regarding your health and care. An LPA only comes into effect once you’ve lost mental capacity and can no longer make decisions for yourself. However, you must set up an LPA while you still have mental capacity.
- Enduring power of attorney – This is what a lasting power of attorney was called prior to 1st October 2007. If you appointed an enduring power of attorney before this date, it’s still valid. It just goes by a different name today.
Why is a lasting power of attorney important?
An LPA gives you peace of mind that someone you trust will be able to make decisions for you in the future when you’re no longer able to do so yourself.
If you don’t have an LPA set up and you lose mental capacity, it could complicate things for you and your loved ones. For example, if you needed to sell your property to cover the cost of care home fees, your loved one would need to apply to the Court of Protection to do this on your behalf. This can take several months and be very expensive. Meanwhile, your access to care could be delayed, causing stress for all involved.
How do I set up a lasting power of attorney?
You must register an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before it can be used. The good news is that setting it up is relatively straightforward. Simply download, print and return the registration forms, or fill them out online.
You can complete the forms yourself, or you can ask for help from a solicitor or local advice agency (such as Citizen’s Advice). Working with a professional is recommended as it can help you avoid issues further down the road — especially if your financial situation is complex.
How much does it cost to set up a lasting power of attorney?
It costs £82 to register an LPA for financial affairs, and a further £82 for health and welfare. This means it costs £164 in total to register both.
You may be eligible for a discount or exemption if you’re on a low income or if you receive certain benefits (such as Income Support).
Who should I choose to be my lasting power of attorney?
Your LPA must be over the age of 18, but they don’t need to live in the UK or be a British citizen. You must also appoint someone who has the mental capacity to make their own decisions.
You might consider choosing your husband, wife, or partner, a relative, close family friend, or a professional, such as a solicitor.
When deciding who to pick, think about:
- How well you know them
- How well they look after their own affairs
- If you trust them to make important decisions in your best interests
- If they’re happy to take on the responsibility of being your LPA
Is my spouse or partner automatically appointed as a lasting power of attorney?
No. You may think that because you’re married or in a civil partnership, your spouse or partner will automatically have the authority to deal with your bank account or make decisions regarding your healthcare if you’re no longer able to. However, they don’t. Without an LPA, they’d need to apply to the Court of Protection.
How can a lasting power of attorney affect nursing home residents?
Having an LPA sorted before you move into a nursing home can be vitally important to your long-term care. It means that, should your mental capacity decline, decisions can still be made regarding the following:
- Your daily routine: Your appointed attorney could be consulted on your diet, social activities, and whether you need help washing and dressing yourself.
- Your medical treatment: If you need life-saving treatment, your attorney may be asked to decide on your behalf.
- Your visitors: An attorney can also make decisions about who you should have contact with while you’re in care.
- Your financial matters: Your chosen attorney will take responsibility for collecting your pension and benefits on your behalf, managing payments into and out of your bank account, and paying your bills on time.