Lasting Powers of Attorney
What are they? A Power of Attorney is a document which one person signs to give another person authority to do certain things on their behalf. In 1985, for the first time, a person was able to sign an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) the essence of which was that it continued to be valid (subject to various safeguards) even after the person signing it had become mentally incapable. On 1st October 2007 the law changed with the coming into force of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 as a result of which it is no longer possible to create a new EPA, although any that were in existence on that date will continue to be valid. Instead we now have the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and there are two types: one relating to a person’s property and financial affairs (which is equivalent to, though much more detailed than, the old EPA) and one to health and welfare (which is an entirely new concept). You can choose to have either or both.
Why have one? The importance of LPAs, for people of all ages, cannot be overstated. If for any reason you should become unable, through illness, accident or old age, to manage your affairs it is vitally important that you have signed a Property and Financial Affairs LPA to give proper legal authority to someone else to act on your behalf. Through the Health and Welfare LPA you can, if you want, give your attorney authority to give or refuse consent to life-sustaining treatment on your behalf if you should lack the capacity to make that decision. Alternatively, you may prefer to sign an Advance Decision which is what the Mental Capacity Act is calling a document that previously was known as a Living Will or Advance Directive. For the first time these documents now have statutory authority and must be complied with - as opposed to the Personal Welfare LPA where your attorney is required always to act in your best interests, even if that might go against what you have said in the LPA.
What if you don't have an LPA? If it became necessary for decisions to be made about your property and financial affairs, or your health and welfare, and you were incapable of making those decisions, the Court of Protection has power to appoint someone called a deputy to make them on your behalf. The person appointed would not necessarily be the person you would have chosen, and indeed could be someone not known to you.
What will it cost? Unfortunately LPAs are considerably more complex than the old EPAs and so will inevitably cost more. However, we would aim normally to limit our charges to £160 plus V.A.T. for one type of LPA or £240 plus V.A.T. for both. These costs would be increased by 50% for a pair of LPAs for husband and wife. In addition, there are registration fees to be paid.
Registration of LPAs. Before either sort of LPA can be used it has to have been registered with the OPG. Currently the fee for registering an LPA is £82, so if a husband and wife have signed both sorts of LPA they are faced with total costs in excess of £700. While it is difficult to see how this is going to encourage people to sign these very important documents, all you can do is to spread the financial burden by postponing registration until the LPA is needed, which of course might never happen. However, that could be a very risky thing to do because we know that the registration process has to take at least five weeks (to allow time for objections to be made to the OPG) and it can in fact take more than two months. In the event of, for example, a sudden and severe illness, that waiting time simply might not be available to your attorney or at best would be a great inconvenience. Our advice, therefore, certainly in the case of the Health and Welfare LPA, is to register sooner rather than later.
Are you housebound? If it is difficult for you to come and see us we will come and see you at home.