What is an LPA and why do I need one?

 09 June 2020
What is an LPA and why do I need one?

An LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) is the insurance policy you hopefully will never need, but can save you and your family so much hassle and heartache if you do need it.

Sadly, the current COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how life is unpredictable and how circumstances can change rapidly. That’s why creating an LPA (or two) as soon as possible will help protect the interests of you and your loved ones now and into the new normal ahead.

What is an LPA?

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you appoint people to help you make decisions or make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself. Unlike insurance policies, LPAs can be activated when you need them, and ‘switched off’ when you don’t. There is a one-off fee to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney and register it. Once registered, it’s there ready to be used if circumstances require it.

Why is an LPA so important now?

An LPA is activated if you become unable to look after your affairs due to illness, a major accident, a mental health issue or due to dementia. Sadly, We have seen just how quickly COVID-19 can strike and incapacitate a person such that they are incapable of looking after themselves for weeks in hospital, and for long period of recovery afterwards.

When does an LPA become active?

With LPAs in place, the people that you appoint and who you trust to take over your affairs can do so almost immediately. They can manage your finances including paying bills, and take health and care decisions on your behalf. If there is no LPA in place, your bank account may be inaccessible and family cannot access much needed funds, pay bills, or be part of major medical and care decisions. Without an LPA, for example, selling a house to liberate funds for long-term care becomes a real hassle.

Why would I need an LPA? I’m young and fit!

Just as the virus can strike people of all ages, accidents and illness can strike us all at any time. An LPA can also be used in non-emergency situations, such as you being stuck abroad and not able to sign papers or deal with financial issues.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is therefore an important document, and needs care and attention to prepare and register. You must have the mental capacity to create an LPA and be aware of what you are doing. There is usually a 12-week wait between sending in the forms and your LPA being registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) the government department that registers LPAs. So, the quicker you act, the better.

Two LPAs for total peace of mind

For your added protection, LPAs come in two types:

  • Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney
  • Property and Finance Lasting Power of Attorney

As the Government’s own guidance says:

Use the Health and Welfare LPA to give an attorney the power to make decisions about things like:

  • your daily routine, for example washing, dressing, eating
  • medical care
  • moving into a care home
  • life-sustaining treatment

The Property and Finance LPA allows attorneys to make financial decisions on your behalf, and manage your bank accounts, pay bills, collect benefits and pensions, and sell your home.

Why you need both types of LPAs

It makes sense to have both types, and to get the two LPAs at the same time, to provide you with the reassurance that all your affairs will be covered and taken care of by your appointed attorneys. Having both LPAs in place avoids your close family having to take decisions at a time when they may be stressed and anxious about you, possibly caring for you too, and not in the right frame of mind or emotional state.

Why you should get profession help with LPAs

LPAs are legally binding documents that can potentially last a lifetime. So it’s important to get them right first time, to avoid issues later. At Panthera Estate Planning, we can help with the whole process of setting up your LPAs. In the current climate, we call you via video conferencing for the discussions around who you would like to appoint as attorneys, help you get their written permission, and fill in your LPA forms correctly.

We can also arrange for your mental capacity to be confirmed by an independent person who is not a member of your family or an appointed attorney. This is a crucial and sometimes overlooked part of the LPA process, but is not actually as tricky as it sounds, even in lockdown. During the lockdown, we have been going to people’s home, social distancing at the end of the driveway, and witnessing wills and Lasting Power of Attorney documents signed on the bonnets of cars!

Who can be my attorney?

Attorneys must be aged 18 or over and have the mental capacity to take on this responsible role. They can be your spouse or partner, another relative, a friend or a professional such as a solicitor. It is important that you trust their ability to manage their own affairs and that they will make decisions in your best interests.

You should have more than one attorney, so they can make decisions either on their own or with other attorneys, known as ‘jointly and severally’. This can take the burden off one attorney having to take all the decisions, by sharing the workload. Also, if one attorney loses capacity or dies, you still have one active attorney. Details and discussions on the qualities of a good attorney are part of our LPA writing service here at Panthera because it is such a crucial part of this important document.

Making an LPA online

Yes, you can complete your LPA form online, but the forms are detailed, somewhat complex and need to be 100% correct to make the document legal. Any minor error will delay the whole process, and could mean you don’t give your attorneys the proper permissions.

In any case, the online LPA system still requires you to print out the forms on paper and be signed in the correct order by:

  • yourself
  • your attorneys
  • your witnesses
  • a ‘certificate provider’ - the person who confirms you’re singing the LPA by your own choice and you understand the implications.

You must also inform your potential attorneys in advance to give them time to reflect and raise any concerns they may have. This is an important part of LPAs to avoid putting family and friends under pressure if they feel they would not make a good attorney.

At Panthera Estate Planning, we can guide you through the whole application process to ensure it reflects your wishes, that the forms are correctly filled in, and that the witness process has been conducted properly and with you full knowledge and consent. We can be that independent witness and certificate provider. We take our role in creating and certifying LPAs very seriously, as these are powerful, potentially life-long legal documents.

Changing your LPA

You can change your attorneys by sending a specially worded statement to the Office of the Public Guardian. You should also update attorneys’ details addresses if they move house or change their name.

If your spouse is your sole attorney and you get divorced, your LPA may end if you don’t appoint a new attorney to replace your ex-spouse BEFORE your divorce is finalised. Again, we can help with these changes to ensure they are correct and properly witnessed before being registered with the OPG.

Complete LPA service from Panthera Estate Planning

We can take care of your Lasting Powers of Attorney from start to finish, from answering all your initial questions through completing forms so they are correct, and ensuring forms are properly witness and certified. Once your LPAs are registered, you can relax, knowing your attorneys will be there should you need them, with the powers they require to look after you and your affairs. Call us, or book an appointment on our calendar to discuss your LPA requirements.

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Having looked around and contacted several professional organisations who would prepare my somewhat complicate will, I chose Panthera on a recommendation and sincerely believe I could not have found a better organisation.

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