The number of people appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to handle their affairs in the event of them losing mental capacity has risen by 50 per cent during the past 12 months, new research from JMW has found. At the same time the number of people diagnosed with dementia has also increased.
As the UK marks Dementia Awareness Week (14-21 May 2017), JMW is urging more people to get their affairs in order and make provisions for a future loss of mental capacity by establishing an LPA. The simple legal process gives control of a person’s assets to one or more named individuals and is often viewed as something of an insurance policy because an LPA is only activated if and when it is required.
If an LPA is not appointed and a person is unable to make their own decisions – due to loss of capacity resulting from dementia or other mental and physical illness – the Court of Protection could decide how and when to release assets to handle payments such as bills, care and ongoing financial commitments, which can be a long and costly process.
The Manchester-based solicitors compared the number of files opened for LPAs in 2015/16 against 2016/17 and found the figure had increased by half as much again, from 50 to 75. The latest government data shows that recorded dementia prevalence has risen to 0.766 per cent in March 2017, affecting one person in 131; an increase from 0.758 per cent in 2016.
Elaine Roche, partner and expert in wills and estate planning at JMW, says: “Many people avoid talking about legal issues such as wills and LPAs until it’s too late because they are either worried about losing control of their own affairs or find the conversation too daunting. But in reality this is the best possible way of keeping control and knowing exactly where and how your assets will be spent in the future. Your attorney can be be more than one person and might be a family member, friend or even somebody in a professional capacity, such as your solicitor or accountant.
“If you don’t appoint an LPA and you either lose mental capacity or end up in hospital for a long period of time, the Court of Protection could have complete authority over your assets and you have no say whatsoever.”
There are two types of LPA; property and financial, and health and welfare. Typical costs are around £500 per LPA, although this can vary according to individual circumstance and the complexity of assets.
A property and financial LPA gives appointed attorneys control over the donor’s bank account, bill payments, benefits, pension and selling the home, while the health and welfare LPA enables the attorney to make decisions about medical care, daily routine, life-sustaining treatment and moving into a care home.
Elaine says: “Many people wrongly assume that their spouse gains automatic control over these kinds of decisions, but this is not the case – the Court of Protection must step in and make a decision over who should have authority when a person loses mental capacity. They may well decide that this is the spouse, but only after a long and sometimes costly court process.
“With dementia cases on the rise it is more important than ever to guard against any further stress and worry in the future by appointing one or more LPAs while you still have the mental capacity to do so. This decision can always be changed or cancelled in the future, but provides a great deal of peace of mind to the individual and their loved ones during times that are already hugely stressful.”
Elaine Roche is a Dementia Friends Champion and volunteers for the initiative, run by the Alzheimer’s Society, which encourages others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. Through her role as a Champion, Elaine has already made almost 200 Dementia Friends by speaking to local schoolchildren, community groups, business leaders and employees about the disease.