Whilst people are now becoming more aware of the need to provide for someone to look after their financial affairs if they lose mental capacity to cope, and are putting in place Lasting Powers of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs, the uptake for Lasting Powers of Attorney for Health and Welfare is much reduced. This is despite diagnosed cases of dementia having increased by more than 50% since 2005.
A recent study prepared by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) has highlighted the importance of preparing Lasting Powers of Attorney to protect against what they are dubbing an ‘incapacity crises’. They estimate that by 2025 there will only be 2.2 million H & W LPAs in existence leaving 13.2 million unprepared for loss of mental capacity.
None of us likes to contemplate a day when we can’t make a decision over our own medical treatment, what we are going to eat, who we are going to see, where we are going to live but sadly many individuals find themselves in such a situation when they lose mental capacity. The SFE found that 65% of people in the South West believe that their next of kin can make decisions on their behalf in such an event. Whilst next of kin would be consulted as part of a best interest decision making process, they do not have any legal right to make the ultimate decision unless H & W LPAs are in place.
H & W LPAs allow you to appoint one or more individuals (your attorneys) to make health and welfare decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so yourself and can only be used when you lack mental capacity to make such decisions. H & W LPAs can also allow your attorneys to make life sustaining treatment decisions on your behalf, something many people feel very strongly about.
You may like to think of a H & W LPA as a bit like an insurance policy. Hopefully the document will never need to be used but in the event you lack the mental capacity to make H & W decisions at least you know those nearest and dearest to you, those that know and care about you and those you trust will be the ones making those difficult decisions about your life on your behalf. Why would anyone leave such important decisions to be made by chance?
If you wish to discuss preparing Lasting Powers of Attorney, please do not hesitate to contact any of our offices where a member of the team will be happy to assist you.