Appointing someone to be your Lasting Power of Attorney (‘making’ a power of attorney), is one of the most important things you can do – regardless of your current age or state of health.
However, having the conversation with family about a Lasting Power of Attorney can be difficult – because none of us like to think that one day we may not be able to make decisions for ourselves.
What does it mean to have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place?
It means you have someone you trust (and ideally more than one person) who can act for you at some point in the future, should that become necessary. Essentially, you’re giving that person the ‘power’ to manage your financial affairs and/or your health and welfare needs, should you become unable to make decisions for yourself.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is not just for older people
Accidents and illness can strike at any age. If that leaves you unable to manage your own affairs, there’s a risk that the state will manage them for you – even if you have a spouse. When the state is managing your money, or when a doctor who doesn’t know your preferences is making health decisions on your behalf, you may wish you’d made a Lasting Power of Attorney while you still could!
Let’s look for a moment at long term care funding: Imagine your parent or older relative doesn’t make a Lasting Power of Attorney (or have an existing Enduring Power of Attorney set up) but then your parent needs care. Without a Lasting Power of Attorney their entire personal assets may be taken by the state to pay for that care – unless someone has the power to intervene and show that the NHS or local authority should be funding their care instead.
The most important point about a Lasting Power of Attorney is that it needs to be set up well in advance – before you ever need to use it. It means someone can then act swiftly on your behalf when that does become necessary.
Many people confuse a power of attorney with a Will. They’re not the same thing at all. Others assume that if you have a Will then you automatically have a power of attorney. Not true. A Lasting Power of Attorney protects your interests while you’re alive, and ceases when you die. A Will protects your interests only once you’re dead.
Without a Lasting Power of Attorney to protect your assets and interests while you’re still alive, you may have nothing left to give in your Will.
4 suggestions to help start the conversation:
- Make the point to your relative that making a power of attorney is like having insurance; it makes no difference to anything right now, but if you come to need it, it’s already there. If you leave it until you need it, it’s often too late.
- Suggest that everyone in the family makes a power of attorney at the same time, so that it doesn’t seem as though you’re just focusing only on the older generation.
- Clarify that a Lasting Power of Attorney is not for the benefit of the attorney. Instead, it’s to protect the person making the power of attorney. It means that the appointed attorney can act in the person’s best interests, be it about financial or health matters.
- Explain that, if the (relatively small) cost of making a Lasting Power of Attorney is putting someone off, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the thousands of pounds it may cost for a family member to have to act without one – not to mention the cost, delays and stress of having to go through the Court of Protection to apply for a Deputyship order.
Have you found other ways to help start the conversation?