Most of us are used to the idea of a Power of Attorney to appoint someone to manage your finances for you if and when you are unable to do so for yourself.
Fewer of us can see the value in a Power of Attorney for Health & Welfare; here I set out why they are useful and powerful and, in many cases, make the biggest difference when you may need it.
Who is your Next of Kin?
As a solicitor I should know the answer – it is a question that I am asked often enough. The reality is that there is not one answer – it depends upon why you are asking.
IF you are asking because someone has died and you want to know who can make the decision around a funeral even such an enormous question as to whether it be a burial or a cremation, then the person with the decision making may be the Executor. This may not be the nearest family member. Or if there is no Will, it will be the person entitled to administer the estate. Who is that? That depends....
IF you are asking because you wonder who would make a decision as to whether you need to stay in a care home then this will also depend, and it may often be that there is a group put together by social services to make that decision for you. Or it may be that those close to you disagree, or are driven by their own agendas.
AND IF you wonder who would make an End of Life decision for you, that would also depend on the circumstances.
By making an LPA for Health & Welfare YOU CHOOSE;
You can appoint one or more people, to act together or separately, or as a replacement attorney to make your health and welfare decisions for you, if you do not have the capacity to make them yourself. You can provide those people with written guidance and you can limit the decisions that they are able to make if you wish.
In other words – you can have a voice even when you cannot say the words. The words for you, whilst you are alive, but unable to explain what care you would like or agree to, and what end of life treatment you prefer.
The critical thing about making an LPA for Health & Welfare is to take proper advice so that you make the LPA properly with full information and only after a discussion that centres around your own needs, your wishes and your choices. This is such a powerful document and tool that it should not be about pleasing others – you must appoint attorneys that you trust to follow your wishes, and to be people that understand you.
The Certificate Provider is the person (in our office this would be one of us) who vouches for the fact that you have fully understood the power of the LPA and have made your choice freely.
The Fear Factor
The thought that we may be afflicted by dementia or a sudden accident or incident and unable to make decisions for ourselves is a very hard one to consider. We all enjoy our independence and our autonomy.
However, the fear that someone we do not trust, or at least have not chosen, could make those decisions for us is as bad.
Don't leave it too late:
The essential thing is to get this done; whilst you are fit and healthy and able to think clearly about who you would trust. Not only does the process of registration take many weeks, even months, before the LPA is useable, it is never a good thing to make decisions from a vulnerable position.
(Contact anyone in our Private Client team for a chat and transparency on costs).