27th April 2021
Many people would have been moved by the documentary ‘Finding Derek’ which aired on ITV last month following Kate Garroway’s struggle whilst her husband Derek was seriously ill in hospital.
Derek returned home this Easter following a year long stay in hospital after suffering from Covid-19 and further complications which saw him put into an induced coma. In the emotional documentary, we heard how presenter and journalist, Kate battled some of the practical problems whilst he was seriously ill and some of the hurdles she faced.
Like many married couples, some of the household utilities, insurances and bank accounts were only held in Derek’s name which made contacting companies and making much needed changes or payments impossible for Kate. On top of this Derek also owned a business which she was unable to assist with during his absence.
One simple way that Kate could have managed Derek’s affairs whilst he was in hospital would have been if Derek had made a Lasting Power of Attorney. In this blog we will discuss exactly what a Lasting Power of Attorney is and how it can help people of any age.
It is important, as Kate learnt, to understand that just because you are married, that does not mean that your spouse will be able to manage your legal, health or financial affairs for you. Marriage does provide some security in terms of what generally happens to assets or property when one partner dies, but even then, it should not be solely relied on. Without a Lasting Power of Attorney your husband or wife will not have any authority to deal with important matters. This can be stressful for both of you and the rest of the family if it causes problems.
Even when a loved one is seriously ill, a doctors certificate or other form of proof, simply is not enough to be able to gain control over their finances, business or other matters.
A Lasting Power of Attorney or LPA is a legal document which appoints a trusted person (or people) to make decisions or act on your behalf if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself or wish to pass this responsibility onto someone else.
A person must have mental capacity to make important decisions – typically concerning legal affairs, financial, property or medical matters. If someone does not understand the impact of the decisions that they are making then it is important that a trusted person can take over and help them.
There are two different types of Lasting Power of Attorney (which are quite self-explanatory) and both have valuable uses.
Property & Finance: This gives a trusted family member, friend or professional the ability to manage financial aspects. Such as, buying and selling property, managing bank accounts, investing money, paying bills, withdrawing money from your accounts, arranging for property repairs and making purchases. The named person will be able to talk to your bank manager or speak to utility companies that set up in your name to make payments or changes to your account.
Health & Welfare: This gives the appointed person more control over any health decisions that need to be made. For example, medical treatment that you received, decisions about life support, where you live, if you need to move to a care home, your diet and activities.
These documents need to be drafted carefully and accurately, putting you in charge of your future as much as possible. This is an opportunity to express your wishes and appoint someone or a small number of people that you trust implicitly to take care of you. The LPA is then registered with the of Office of Public Guardian.
An LPA is suitable for more long-term action. For example, if you needed a bill paying whilst you were in hospital for a short period after a minor surgery, it would not be appropriate to evoke your LPA. However, if someone has a long-term illness or serious condition that is expected to go on for some time, then that is a sensible time to use a Lasting Power of Attorney.
Remember that an LPA must be registered before it can be used but whilst someone has mental capacity, an attorney can act under their instruction. It is important to act swiftly if a loved one is diagnosed with a deliberating condition or their health rapidly declines.
Whilst Lasting Powers of Attorney are more commonly put to use in later life or old age, we are unable to predict what can happen to our health or mental capacity. Someone of any age can sadly be involved in a catastrophic accident or find themselves seriously ill and losing their mental capacity. It is much easier and more cost effective for families to have precautions in place before someone losses capacity altogether, as this can make the process much more complex, involving the Court of Protection. Anyone over the age of 18 is able to make a Lasting Power of Attorney, but it is a sensible decision to make in your 20s, 30s or 40s or older. If you have children, run a business, own a property then you may wish to add an additional layer of protection by drawing up an LPA. If you have a family history of dementia, it is also sensible to consider making an LPA earlier in life.
Aside from the practical benefits of having an LPA in place for a family member, there is also the additional benefit of peace of mind. Partners or family members can focus on the recovery or rehabilitation of their loved one, rather than fretting about getting things in order or building up a list of issues that need addressing once they are home.
After watching the ‘Find Derek’ documentary, it is clear to see that the struggles Kate experienced with insurance companies and bank accounts whilst Derek was in a coma, would have been much easier to navigate if she had power of attorney for his affairs. It would have possibly allowed her more headspace to process and cope with his medical conditions and been one less thing to worry about at night too.
At Lamb Brooks, our compassionate Solicitors are specialists in drafting Lasting Powers of Attorney, Wills and other legal protection documents for families.
We can talk you through the process, advise on the best options depending on your own personal circumstances and help you with the complex registration process.
For more information or to book an appoint to discuss your situation, please call our Private Client team on 01256 844888.
We understand that things are difficult at the moment, but if it is important for you to get the ball rolling, we are happy to assist in whatever way you feel most comfortable. Our solicitors can offer you a telephone meeting or video call meeting if you feel safer staying at home. Alternatively, we can hold a meeting at our offices, where we use protective screens to enable us to speak face-to-face or we can visit you at your home if you prefer.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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