What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
Whether it’s due to an illness, injury or simply growing older, it’s likely that many of us will end up lacking the mental capacity to make important life decisions without the help of someone else one day.
No matter how distant that time may seem at the moment, it’s important that you prepare and plan ahead so that you have someone you trust in charge of your personal affairs when you eventually become unable to do so yourself.
In order to do this, you will need to set up a lasting power of attorney (LPA) through a trusted legal service.
Lasting power of attorney meaning: What is it?
First of all, what is a power of attorney? The power of attorney refers to the legal authority that is granted to someone to make decisions on behalf of another individual. This can include many important decisions relating to all elements of a person’s life, from their healthcare and housing, to their finances and household bills.
In order to be granted the power of attorney, an LPA must be arranged.
A lasting power of attorney is a documented legal agreement that allows you (the ‘donor, or person setting up the LPA) to grant someone else (the ‘attorney’) the authority to help you make personal decisions or to make them on your behalf.
An LPA should be set up well before you lose mental capacity, so that you don’t risk leaving it too late and can rest easy knowing that your affairs will be left in reliable hands.
By appointing an attorney that has your best interests at heart, you retain a level of control over your life, even if you lack the capacity to make your own decisions independently.
Types of lasting power of attorney
A lasting power of attorney can either be temporary or permanent, depending on your preferences and circumstances.
There are two main types to choose from: The Health and Welfare LPA and the Property and Financial Affairs LPA.
Health and Welfare LPA: This type of LPA grants attorneys the authority to deal with your daily life choices, such as healthcare.
Property and Financial Affairs LPA: This type of LPA provides attorneys with the right to handle your finances, including bills, pensions and tax obligations.
In England and Wales, you can choose between one or both of these LPAs, but if you aren’t sure which option would suit you, you should seek professional legal advice from a will-writing company and they’ll help you determine the best course of action.
What is the role of a lasting power of attorney?
The responsibilities of an attorney vary depending on which type of LPA you have set up, but they are generally required to:
Act in your best interests
Take reasonable care when making decisions on your behalf
Follow the terms set out in the LPA
Help you make your own decisions when possible, rather than making them for you
Related article: Dealing with Someone’s Finances After Death
Who needs a lasting power of attorney?
There aren’t many requirements to set up a lasting power of attorney; you simply need to be over 18 years of age and of sound mind when the arrangement is made.
This means that you will not necessarily need your LPA at the time it is set up, but it’s likely that you will at some point later down the line. Your LPA will be hugely beneficial to you if you ever lose the mental capacity to make your own decisions through age, illness or injury.
Choosing an attorney for your LPA
You must think carefully about who you choose as your attorney, because the role comes with a considerable amount of responsibility and can put the individual in some testing situations.
Attorneys must be over 18 years old but there are no further requirements; you are free to choose a friend, relative or even a solicitor.
The people you nominate as your attorneys must also agree to the role, of course, but be sure to consider the following before you approach them:
Will they prioritise your best interests?
Are they reliable?
Do they handle their own finances well?
Will they be able to make difficult decisions for you?
Do they have the time to commit to such a role?
You can appoint more than one attorney to spread the responsibilities in a way that suits the attorney’s strengths, which is also a useful way of reducing the pressure placed upon any friends or relatives that you choose.
For example, you might choose a solicitor to deal with your finances and a relative to handle your healthcare and other day-to-day issues.
Related article: The Benefits of Making a Will
Making decisions ‘jointly’ or ‘jointly and severally’
As part of the lasting power of attorney, you must decide whether your attorneys should make decisions ‘jointly’ or ‘jointly and severally’.
Making decisions ‘jointly’ means that all attorneys must agree on every decision made on your behalf, while ‘jointly and severally’ means that attorneys are able to act on your behalf both as a group and individually when they see fit.
How to set up a lasting power of attorney
Making a lasting power of attorney is simple with an online legal service that does all of the hard work for you.
To make an LPA:
- You complete their straightforward online form
- Their specialists check your form and print your documents
- They post the legal documents to you for your signature (freepost return)
- Final checks are made and then your LPA is submitted for official registration (filing fee included)
If you’re ready to get started on your lasting power of attorney, be sure to do some research regarding online will-writing services and compare prices. You may find that some companies offer exactly the same service as other solicitors or firms, just at a much more affordable price.
If you still need some more information, read our related guides and find out more about how you should set up an LPA: