There are many reasons that you may one day become unable to make decisions about your own financial assets or physical wellbeing, either on a temporary or more permanent basis. As a result of advances in medical science we’re all living longer and as such common conditions associated with growing older are becoming more prevalent. But a loss of capacity to make decisions can happen at any age due to illness, accident, or any other incapacitating event. As such it is essential to have arrangements in place to ensure that your wishes are respected.
Having a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows you to choose family members or other trusted individuals (“attorneys”) to make decisions on your behalf when you’re unable to do so.
There are two types of LPA, one dealing with property and financial matters, the other with health and welfare matters. They can be made at the same time or separately.
A property and affairs LPA allows you to choose people to manage your financial matters according to your specified instructions. They will have the authority to handle tasks such as paying your bills, managing your income, buying or selling property, as well as managing your bank accounts and investments. A health and welfare LPA allows you to choose people to make decisions regarding your healthcare, medical treatment, and daily welfare, including decisions about where you live, what you eat, and the kind of medical treatment you receive. It would also cover day to day matters such as your diet and daily routine.
Both types of LPA need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before they can be used by your attorneys. Once registered you can continue to manage your affairs for as long as you have capacity, but your attorneys under the property and financial affairs LPA can also carry out tasks on your behalf if you want them to. A health and welfare LPA can only be used when you lack capacity to make a decision yourself. You may have the capacity to make some decisions about your health and welfare but not others.
In addition to putting in place Lasting Powers of Attorney, you may also wish to consider creating an advance decision, also known as a living will.
An advance decision is a legally binding document that allows you to specify the medical treatments you desire or do not wish to receive during your lifetime, should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your preferences. This document covers situations where you may lack the capacity to make decisions about your medical treatment.
Whilst an advance decision can be made orally, this may lead to uncertainty regarding your wishes, so it is recommended to have a written advance decision to ensure clarity and avoid potential misunderstandings. If your advance decision includes a refusal of life-sustaining treatment, it needs to be recorded in writing, signed and witnessed to be valid.
It’s important to think about how your advance decision and LPA for health and welfare work together if you have both. Whichever you made most recently may override the other.
If you make a health and welfare LPA first followed by a valid advance decision, this will stop your attorneys under the LPA from agreeing to treatment that you’ve refused under the advance decision. If you make the advance decision first, the LPA will override your advance decision, but only if your LPA gives your attorneys the power to deal with the same decisions about treatment.
If you are making an LPA and already have an advance decision in place, you can include details of this on the LPA form stating that you want your attorneys to take it into consideration, and a copy would need to be sent to the Office of the Public Guardian when registering the LPA.
The two documents can work together. If you have strong feelings about refusing certain types of treatment, including life-sustaining treatment, and don’t want to delegate decisions about to your attorneys this can be included in your advance decision, and you should not give your attorneys power to refuse the same treatment.
To find a Lifetime Lawyer near you who can help you with drafting LPAs or living wills, head to our find a lawyer page.