More than two million people in the UK are unable to make their own decisions for a variety of reasons including dementia, a stroke, brain injury, learning disability or mental illness.  Most of us assume that either it will not happen to us, or if it does we hope that the people we know and trust might do the ‘right thing’ to carry out our wishes and safeguard our finances, health and care.  However, not having the appropriate legal documentation in place can lead to a myriad of problems and often expensive long-winded applications to the Court of Protection to appoint a Deputy to act on our behalf and make the relevant decisions.  It is therefore vital to become more comfortable with talking about mental illness, and to plan for the inevitable by putting in place paperwork that reflects your wishes.

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)

A lasting Powers of Attorney is a powerful legal document that allows you to choose one or more trusted individuals, called attorneys, to handle your affairs once you become unable to make your own decisions.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no automatic power for next of kin to deal with personal affairs.  Drafting LPAs to appoint others to act on your behalf could avoid much distress, expense and frustration in the future, normally at an already emotional time.  There are two types of LPA:

  1. Property & Financial Affairs, such as dealing with banks, investments, finances, managing your property and paying bills; and
  1. Health and Welfare, such as dealing with your health, social care, medical treatment and end of life wishes.

More than two million people are deemed as legally incapacitated in the UK, leaving others to make decisions on their behalf. LPAs are recognised by local authorities, banks, medical professionals and government agencies, such as the tax and the pension services.  It is prudent to take appropriate advice about your investments and if your investments are managed by an investment manager then it is important that your Property and Financial Affairs LPA contains the relevant permissions.  Without this permission within the LPA document, an attorney may not be able to instruct your investment manager without a Court application.

Solicitors for the Elderly recently discovered that only 39% of individuals have a Will in place and even fewer, 7%, have an LPA.  Even amongst the few people who have these documents in place individuals may be at risk if they have had poor quality advice or if they have invalid or easily challenged documents from online resources and off-the-shelf kits.  Research by Solicitors for the Elderly has found that people are using risky or no legal advice when creating an lasting Powers of Attorney, with 54% using off-the-shelf kits or non-legally qualified advisers.  It is important that you obtain the best legal advice and save costs by ensuring that you get the paperwork correct from the outset.

If you are interested in reviewing your affairs or you wish to discuss any other aspect of this article please contact Lisa Weekes in the Exeter Private Client department tel: 01392 210 700 or email