Most of us give very little thought to what might happen if we reach a stage in our lives when we can no longer make decisions for ourselves. Who will look after our money and make decisions about our health?
The answer to these worries can be to give someone we trust what is called a Power of Attorney to make those decisions on our behalf. In England and Wales, it is called a Lasting Power of Attorney – and there are two sorts, one for money, one for health. In Scotland it is called a Continuing or Welfare Power of Attorney and in Northern Ireland an Enduring one. A Power made in England and Wales before 1 October 2007 was also called an Enduring Power of Attorney.
You have to make the Power before you lose mental capacity. When – and if – you can no longer make decisions for yourself, your attorney can take over and make them for you. Attorneys have a statutory duty only to act in your best interests. They can access bank accounts and make financial decisions, but they can’t take the money for themselves. At least, that’s the theory.
But Denzil Lush, a retired senior judge at the England and Wales Court of Protection, expressed concern recently that a new streamlined application process in England and Wales may make it too easy for attorneys to abuse their powers. He would prefer, he stated, to have his own affairs managed by the Court of Protection. This court normally acts when someone without a Power of Attorney loses their mental capacity and a relative applies to run their affairs for them. That process is closely supervised and is much more expensive than a Power of Attorney. Just applying to the Court costs £400, and annual management and other fees can add up to thousands of pounds.
A Power of Attorney can be registered for £75 in Scotland, £82 in England and Wales, and £115 in Northern Ireland. But it is always sensible to pay for good legal advice to be sure the process is properly done and understood by all.
For more information, go to moneyadviceservice.org.uk and search “power of attorney”.
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