Talking about the future can be difﬁcult, especially if you’re worried about losing the ability to make decisions for yourself. But having the conversation with friends and family now can give everyone security and peace of mind.
By Louise Carey
No one likes thinking about worstcase scenarios. For most of us, accidents, illnesses, and losing the capacity to decide things for ourselves are the last things in the world we want to dwell on. Facing such scenarios unprepared can make matters worse, while a little forward planning, can make them signiﬁcantly easier to deal with, giving you greater control and peace of mind.
Here are three steps you can take today to prepare for whatever tomorrow brings.
1. Look into making a lasting Power of Attorney
Making a lasting power of attorney (known simply in Scotland, as Power of Attorney) is a way to ensure that your wishes are taken into account if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. A lasting power of attorney (LPA or PoA) is a legal document that allows you to choose people you trust to be your ‘attorney(s)’, giving them permission to help you make decisions, or to make decisions on your behalf.
How does an LPA work?
There are two types of LPA, which deal with different types of decision. A health and welfare LPA (or in Scotland a ‘Welfare PoA’) is for decisions about things like your medical care, or whether or not you should move into a care home, and can only be used if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. A property and ﬁnancial affairs LPA (or ‘Continuing PoA’) is for decisions about your money, property, and other ﬁnancial matters, and can be used as soon as it is registered, if you give permission. In Scotland, there is also a third type: a Combined PoA, which is a combination of both welfare and continuing PoAs.
You can appoint one attorney or several, to make decisions for you, and you can choose whether each of them can make decisions about you on their own, or whether they have to all agree on each decision.
Why do I need one?
Lawyer, Rachel Sullivan explains that having an LPA in place “Gives you control over what you want to happen if you lose capacity, because you can pick the person who will be responsible for making decisions.”
Decisions made by your appointed attorney(s) “Have to be made in your best interests, but your wishes and preferences are taken into account as far as possible,” she told Able Magazine.
“So, for instance, if you particularly don’t want to go into a home when you lose capacity but instead want to fund a live-in carer out of a pot of money somewhere, if you appoint your own attorney, you can make that known to them.”
You can only make an LPA if you currently have the capacity to make your own decisions. This means it’s a good idea to consider making one sooner, rather than later, so that it’s already in place in case of accidents and illnesses etc (that can remove capacity).
How can I make an LPA?
It’s a simple process. In England and Wales there are a set of forms available from the Gov.uk site that can be ﬁlled out either online or on paper. According to Rachel Sullivan, the forms are “pretty straightforward”, and designed to be understandable even if you don’t have a legal background. Registering an LPA costs £82, but people receiving certain beneﬁts can apply to have this fee waived, while those earning less than £12,000 a year before tax only have to pay half.
In Scotland, you must arrange for your own PoA document to be written up and signed by a solicitor or a doctor, and then send it to the Ofﬁ ce of the Public Guardian, either online or by post. The registration fee is £75, but you may also need to hire a solicitor to help you draft the PoA document. Alternatively, you can buy a doit-yourself PoA pack in most stationers.
2. Get your ﬁnancial affairs in order
Where do I start?
While you’re thinking about making an LPA, it’s also a good time to consider money matters. This might sound like an ordeal, but in fact you can make substantial headway by taking very simple steps. The ﬁrst one is to gather up all of your important ﬁnancial documents and store them in the same, safe place. Tell your appointed attorney(s) where they are, so they can easily ﬁnd them when they need them, and you’ll already have saved yourself and them a lot of time. Next, make a clear list of all your sources of income, outgoings, savings and investments, and any outstanding debts you have, and store this with your ﬁnancial records.
Another thing to consider is making a will, if you haven’t already. There are do-it-yourself will kits available in stationery shops and online, but unless your will is very simple you should think about hiring a solicitor to help you.
What about care and funeral costs?
There are many options for covering funeral and other costs. One is to open a savings account, and save a little each month that you earmark for this purpose. There are also dedicated funeral savings plans, though, arguably, these do not offer good value for money compared with a savings account.
3. Start the conversation with friends or family
If planning ahead for these kinds of worstcase scenarios feels overwhelming, then there’s a simple way to make things more bearable: bring friends or loved ones into the conversation. Talking about what you would like to happen to you and your ﬁnances in the future with someone you trust can be very helpful, both in terms of ﬁguring out what practical steps you would like to take and getting emotional support. Sharing your fears, and your wishes, will make it easier for your loved ones to make the right decisions for you if you do lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself. And once you’ve had the conversation, you can focus on happier things, safe in the knowledge that you have a solid plan in place for if things change.
– The Gov.uk site has a step-by-step guide to making an LPA, and a form you can ﬁll in to apply for a reduction in the cost: www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney
– The Ofﬁce of the Public Guardian can provide help to people who have questions about making an LPA. They can be contacted via email: email@example.com or tel: 0300 456 0300 or textphone: 0115 934 2778.
– More information about the process of making an LPA in Scotland can be found here: www.publicguardianscotland.gov.uk/power-of-attorney
– The Money Advice Service has some useful advice on things to consider when getting your ﬁnances in order and writing a will: www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk