What Are the Risks When You Set Up Lasting Power of Attorney?

Should you have a long-term debilitating illness or be suffering from a loss of mental capacity, it is reassuring to know that someone you trust is managing not only financial matters, but is also able to make decisions regarding your ongoing health, welfare and care.

To make this possible, before (and if) you get to this stage in your life you will need to draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). By appointing someone, known as the ‘attorney’, to look after you and make decisions on your behalf when you are not capable of doing so yourself can bring great peace of mind. However, there can be risks associated with a Lasting Power of Attorney.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?

An LPA is a legally-binding document that allows an appointed, or ‘chosen’, person, called an attorney, to handle your financial, health, well-being and care matters should you be in a position where you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

There is a difference between a Power of Attorney (POA) and an LPA – a POA is only designed for an attorney to handle your financial and property affairs. An LPA is designed for an attorney to manage your financial, property, health, welfare and care matters.

Whilst you can draw up your own LPA using a DIY option, it is better to have a POA or LPA drawn by a legal professional who is experienced in this matter to ensure that nothing has been left out, that it is correct and that it will be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) in England and Wales via a form. There are different rules for drawing up an LPA in Northern Ireland and Scotland. This means that should the POA or LPA become active, there is no possibility of it being rejected by another party, such as banks, doctors or utility providers.

Choosing the right person to act as attorney is crucial to an effective, properly managed LPA; they must be over 18 years of age and someone that you trust to look after your affairs. They don’t necessarily need to be a member of your family, they can be a close personal friend and sometimes that can be a preferred option to release any emotional pressure a family member may feel. Remember that the person you choose will have access to your bank accounts and all matters relating to you. They will be making decisions and signing off on any financial matters, including selling or buying property, as well as your care and where you will live.

You may decide to choose more than one attorney, each having a different responsibility towards you, such as one to look after property matters, another to make financial decisions and another to manage your care and welfare. Ultimately it is up to you but bear in mind that their individual decisions will have an impact on another attorney’s decision so make sure they all know each other and are happy to collaborate together.

If you do not have an LPA and lose the mental capacity to make decisions yourself, then an application to the Court of Protection must be made and they will make a decision about your financial, property, health and welfare matters, or appoint a deputy to act for you.

Risks associated with an LPA

As with any situation where you are handing over control of your affairs, there is an element of risk involved. Some of these risks are:

● They will have access to your personal, private and confidential information.
● They will be making decisions about your lifestyle, such as where you will live if not in your own home.
● They will make decisions on what treatment you should and should not receive.
● They have access to your personal correspondence and other papers, such as your medical records.
● They will be managing your bank account(s) and other financial matters. However, if it is found by the court that they have acted dishonestly, fraudulently or mis-managed your finances they will have to pay you back.

It is vitally important that you trust the person(s) you appoint as an attorney(s). It may be wise to include an advance decision or statement in your LPA that specifies your wishes/preferences in certain situations. Some questions to consider when choosing your attorney are:

● Do you wish to have another person, i.e. a member of your family, to have a say in what treatment you receive, your future healthcare and personal care. Ultimately the decision is down to your attorney but if you’ve made this wish, they should consult with the other person.
● Will your attorney listen to medical professionals about your treatment/healthcare and always have your best interests at heart?
● Will they be making decisions for you in the short-term or long-term?
● Do you fully trust them to make the right decisions for you as you would have made yourself?

It is worth noting that if you have appointed more than one attorney to look after specific areas of your life, they cannot make a decision on an aspect they have not been appointed for; i.e. if they are looking after your financial and property matters, they cannot make a decision about your healthcare or welfare.

There are some areas where an attorney is not allowed to make a decision on your behalf, such as:

● To go against any decision or preference you’ve made, i.e. refusal of certain treatments, in your advance decision/statement in your LPA.
● To agree to a deprivation of liberty (a situation where your liberty is taken away from you, i.e. you are not free to leave and are placed under constant supervision) to be imposed on you without a court order.
● If you are under a guardianship, they are not allowed to make a decision that conflicts with your guardian’s decision, such as where you live.
● They are not allowed to make decisions that you wouldn’t normally make yourself, such as going against the law.

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional online probate service, including drawing up a Lasting Power of Attorney or Power of Attorney, which is efficient and affordable. If you want advice on LPAs and POAs or need to apply for Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.