Time to take control

Put your trust in someone to make decisions for you, before it’s too late

The Queen, thank goodness, has her health and, with one or two scares apart, so too has Prince Philip. But other families with elderly relatives in their 80s and 90s aren’t so fortunate.

For them, there is the anguish of seeing parents or other family members suffer badly in their old age – poor health, approaching dementia, and an overall weariness when it comes to taking decisions.

That’s where a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) comes in. It’s the legal permission given to someone you trust implicitly who will be able to act and take decisions on your behalf. As a safeguard, you must also ask an independent third party, known as the certificate provider, to certify that you are doing this of your own free will.

By all means nominate your spouse, but it would also make sense to nominate a person from a younger generation to act on your behalf as well. You can insist that they always act in concert, or you can specify that each can make individual decisions on your behalf.

There are two types of LPA. The property and financial affairs LPA gives your attorney power to manage all your financial affairs, such as running your bank accounts, dealing with tax and managing your investments.

With a health and welfare LPA in place, your attorney is empowered to make decisions about moving into a care home, what medical treatment you receive, including whether you would wish to be resuscitated or not.

Although you can draw up an LPA for free, it must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian at a cost of £130 per LPA (fees are waived for those on benefits and anyone whose income is under £12,000 gets a 50 per cent reduction). If you use a solicitor to handle arrangements, you will have their fees on top.

In England and Wales, you can download the LPA forms, plus detailed and clear guidelines, from the Office of the Public Guardian website, then it can take up to 11 weeks to register a LPA. If you have a pre-October 1970 Enduring Power of Attorney, it is still valid but will have to be registered, too. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the terminology and procedures are slightly different, but the principles are fundamentally the same.

I am about to take my own advice – I will let you know how I get on!

Getting their affairs in order

Mike and Linda Cassell, now in their mid-60s, had a meeting with their financial adviser last December to discuss their income arrangements. Almost as a throwaway line, the subject of power of attorney came up. Like most of us, Mike and Linda hadn’t given the matter of managing their affairs as they got older too much thought, but the conversation spurred them into action. By the end of March, two Lasting Powers of Attorney had been set up and registered, bringing what Mike describes as “peace of mind”. “The forms were incredibly complicated,” he says. “I don’t think anyone should attempt to do it on their own.” But, of course, solicitors’ fees add to the cost. Although Linda’s low income meant that she qualified for reduced fees, the Cassells’ overall bill for setting up two LPAs, plus their wills, came to £1,000.

Going it alone

Alison Maddocks took out two Lasting Power of Attorney on behalf of her elderly uncle four years ago. She downloaded the forms and didn’t use a solicitor. “The guidance notes were very good, and first I filled everything in by pencil and double-checked and double-checked,” she says. Even so, a mistake did creep in. Her uncle’s doctor, his certificate provider, dated his document a day after her signature requesting registration. “Fortunately, I picked this up and was able to print out a replacement page for me to sign – otherwise it would have cost another £130.” When her uncle was hospitalised recently, she was asked about his attitude to resuscitation which was “Don’t”. Fortunately, he made a recovery and she was able to rescind that answer.