Lasting Powers of Attorney - Making Decisions for Others
Research into dementia is making regular headlines, with the recent report of Sea Hero Quest, a smartphone game developed by dementia researchers to record people’s spatial navigation skills. According to the reports, these skills are often the first skills to fail in a person who has dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK, who have made the game available to download for free from their website, state that,
”Playing the game will help our scientists understand in detail how our brains navigate space, and help to build the largest crowd-sourced database on human spatial navigation.” (www.alzheimersresearchuk.org)
People affected by dementia may have trouble with making decisions as well as with navigation. When a person does not have mental capacity to make a decision it is possible for a third party to apply to the Court of Protection for a court order either;
- enabling a specific decision to be made by a judge; or
- appointing an individual to make decisions for a person on an ongoing basis.
However, these court applications are longwinded and costly.
Imagine how useful it would be if, before a person’s mental capacity became impaired, they had signed a document legally giving a person or people that they had chosen, the power to make decisions for them should they at some point in the future be unable to. This is where Lasting Powers of Attorney come in.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (known as LPAs) are legal documents which have to comply with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in order to legally be able to be used for people whose mental capacity to make decisions is impaired.
There are two types of LPA: Health and Welfare and Property and Financial, and these can be carefully tailored to meet an individual’s requirements. The Property and Financial LPA can even be used when the person who made it still has capacity to make decisions. Each document has to be signed not only by the person for whom decisions may be made but also by their attorneys, any replacement attorneys and an independent person, known as a Certificate Provider, who must certify that the person who made the LPA understood it when they signed it. There is no requirement for a doctor to be involved in the making of your LPA.
The signed LPAs must be sent to the Court of Protection to be double-checked and registered on a national register before they can be used. As the registration process takes at least 8 weeks, it is sensible to make LPAs and get them registered sooner rather than later.
LPAs are not just for people concerned about dementia, or for the elderly. They can also be useful for adults of any age who, either temporarily or long-term;
- have conditions such as blindness or paralysis where mental capacity is not necessarily affected
- need someone else to take the responsibility of making their decisions because they have a mental illness e.g. schizophrenia.
Although the LPA forms are available online, for such a powerful document many people choose to enlist the help of a solicitor to draw them up. In particular, professionals who draw up and register LPAs regularly are aware of the many reasons why an LPA could be rejected by the Court when it is submitted for registration and can make sure yours is not rejected. A professional adviser can also act as your Certificate Provider.
To download and play the Sea Hero Quest game, visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/
We offer free 30 minute evening consultations on all aspects of lasting powers of attorney, wills and probate. If you need help or advice or would like to book an appointment please contact Josie Birnie or Meg Wilton on 01442 872311.
This article first appeared in the Hemel Gazette Business Monthly on Wednesday 25th May 2016.