The importance of having a valid will in place has long been established, with many understanding the critical importance of expressing their wishes about how their estate should be managed and distributed upon their death. What, however, happens if an individual requires assistance with managing their affairs whilst they are still alive? This is where Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) play a vital role and can offer the much needed assistance to an individual and their family. The individual (the donor) will appoint attorney(s) to manage their affairs for them, either at their request or if they are unable to do so themselves i.e. the loss of mental capacity. The attorney(s) can be their spouse, partner, child, friend, sibling or a professional, but most importantly should be someone they have full trust and faith in to uphold their wishes.
There are two types of LPAs; one being for property and financial affairs and the other for health and welfare matters. The property and financial LPA covers matters such as managing and selling property, accessing and managing bank accounts and paying bills. For example, an attorney may access funds in the donor’s bank account to pay for property expenses, or deal with the donor’s bank on their behalf. Banks may freeze an individual’s sole account when they are informed or suspect the individual lacks mental capacity which can potentially create significant financial problems, as well as emotional stress for those involved, when funds are required to pay for care on a monthly basis. A further example is if an individual is required to move into a care home on a permanent basis, the attorney(s) can sell the property on the donor’s behalf and sign all legal documents required.
The property & financial LPA can also cover the management and control of digital assets and accounts. The donor can specify instructions in respect of their Facebook or Instagram accounts, Apple or Spotify accounts or digital currency such as Bitcoin confirming the attorney(s) have access to the accounts, manage them, transfer digital assets or modify data. Without this confirmation access may be restricted or denied by the company and the donor’s important information may be inaccessible or irretrievable. If the donor has a business, having instructions in place about business affairs and management may also prove critically important to the ongoing survival and growth of the business.
The health and welfare LPA covers personal decisions such as the provision of care and medical treatment, including matters such as where an individual lives or the medication they receive. It also covers decisions in connection with life sustaining treatment such as in circumstances when an individual is on a life support machine, in a vegetative state or suffering from a progressive neurodegenerative condition. Whilst it is not the nicest subject to think about, many individuals often have strong wishes about the treatment they should receive in these circumstances and the health and welfare LPA can specify clear instructions in this respect. This type of LPA should only ever be used when the donor lacks mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
Having both types of LPAs in place can therefore provide both the individual and their family with the peace of mind that assets can be managed, protected and dealt with accordingly, and that an individual’s wishes concerning the most personal of medical treatment and care can be respected.
If you would like any further information about LPAs or would like to book an appointment to meet with one of our team please do not hesitate to contact us.