What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in the UK is a powerful legal tool that lets you appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you lose mental capacity. This guide explores the benefits, different types, and the process of setting up an LPA in the UK. It also highlights key considerations to ensure your well-being is protected.

Imagine a situation where you can’t make decisions due to an accident or illness. An LPA allows you to prepare for this. An LPA is a legal document that lets you (the “donor”) appoint one or more individuals (known as “attorneys”) to make decisions on your behalf if you become mentally incapable. These decisions can be about your finances and property or your health and welfare.

The key advantage of an LPA is its proactive nature. By setting it up while you still have mental capacity, you retain control over who makes crucial decisions affecting your life.

Benefits of a Lasting Power of Attorney

There are several advantages to establishing a Lasting Power of Attorney in the UK:

  • Peace of mind: Knowing your loved ones won’t have to navigate a complex legal process to manage your affairs if you lose mental capacity.
  • Control and autonomy: You choose the attorneys you trust to act in your best interests.
  • Reduced stress for family: An LPA eliminates the stress of making difficult decisions during a challenging time.
  • Avoids court involvement: Bypassing the court system can save time and money compared to applying for a deputyship order.
  • Improved quality of care: With a trusted attorney making healthcare decisions, you have a higher chance of receiving care aligned with your wishes.

Types of Lasting Powers of Attorney in the UK

There are two primary types of LPAs in the UK, each catering to specific decision-making areas:

  • Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs (LPA-PFA): This LPA allows your attorney(s) to make decisions regarding your finances and property.
  • Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare (LPA-H&W): This LPA empowers your attorney(s) to make decisions about your health and well-being.

You can create separate LPAs for each area or a single LPA covering both aspects.

Setting Up a Lasting Power of Attorney: A Step-by-Step Guide

Taking control of your future involves setting up an LPA. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose Your Attorneys: Select trustworthy individuals (at least one, up to four) as your attorneys. Consider their reliability, financial understanding (for LPA-PFA), and familiarity with your wishes. Discuss your expectations openly.
  2. Decide on the Type of LPA: Determine whether you need an LPA-PFA, LPA-H&W, or both based on your current and future needs.
  3. Obtain the LPA Forms: The forms are free and available online from the Office of the Public Guardian (England and Wales) or the Office of the Public Guardian for Scotland (depending on your location).
  4. Complete the Forms: Carefully fill out the LPA forms, ensuring all details are accurate. Consider seeking legal advice from a solicitor if needed.
  5. Get Your Forms Witnessed: A qualified individual who is not named as an attorney or beneficiary needs to witness your LPA forms. This service is usually free.
  6. Register Your LPA: Once completed and witnessed, register your LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian. There are fees associated with registration, with potential reductions or exemptions based on your financial circumstances.
  7. Keep Copies Safe: Maintain copies of your registered LPA for your records and share them with your chosen attorneys.

Costs Associated with Setting Up an LPA

While creating an LPA can be done yourself (DIY), there are associated costs to consider:

  • Solicitor Fees (Optional): A solicitor can guide you through the process, ensure forms are completed correctly, and tailor the LPA to your needs. Fees typically range from £150 to £500+ depending on complexity.
  • Xwills Fees (Optional): One of Xwills’ estate planners can assist you with the whole process, filling out the forms, applying for exemption where applicable all for £149 which includes the LPA registration fee
  • LPA Registration Fee: The standard registration fee is £82 per LPA (as of April 1, 2024). Reduced fees or exemptions may apply.

Important Considerations When Creating a Lasting Power of Attorney

Choosing the right attorneys and understanding their powers are crucial. You can also appoint replacement attorneys and keep your LPA updated. Remember, you retain the right to revoke your LPA at any time while you have mental capacity.

For LPA-H&W decisions, consider including advance directives outlining your wishes for medical treatment in specific situations. Your attorneys should be familiar with the Mental Capacity Act (2005) to ensure they act within the bounds of your assessed mental capacity.

Seeking Professional Guidance for a Lasting Power of Attorney

While the LPA creation process can be completed independently, seeking professional guidance can offer valuable support:

  • Solicitors: A solicitor can advise you on the most suitable LPA type, assist with form completion, and ensure clear wording to avoid future disputes. Their fees were discussed earlier (£150-£500+).
  • Financial Advisors: For LPAs related to property and finances (LPA-PFA), a financial advisor can help you incorporate specific instructions for managing your assets. Their fees vary based on complexity and experience, typically ranging from £100-£300 per hour or a flat fee.
  • Xwills: One of Xwills’ estate planners can assist you with the whole process, filling out the forms, applying for exemption where applicable all for £149 which includes the LPA registration fee

Conclusion: Safeguarding Your Future with a Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney empowers you to plan for your future well-being and peace of mind. By understanding the different LPA types, the setup process, and key considerations, you can ensure your wishes are respected and your interests protected if you lose mental capacity.

Taking the initiative to create an LPA empowers you to have a say in your future, even when you can’t speak for yourself. Discuss this important topic with your loved ones and consider consulting with legal or financial professionals to ensure your LPA is tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

By taking a proactive approach with a Lasting Power of Attorney, you can ensure your wishes are carried out and empower your loved ones to make informed decisions on your behalf if needed.

The Lasting Power of Attorney: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

While this guide has covered the essentials of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) in the UK, some questions may still linger. Here are some frequently asked questions to provide further clarity:

Q: Can I have more than one attorney?

A: Yes, you can appoint up to four attorneys for your LPA. You can choose for them to act jointly and severally (meaning any one attorney can make decisions independently) or jointly (meaning they must all agree on decisions).

Q: What happens if my chosen attorney can no longer act?

A: You can appoint replacement attorneys in your LPA to take over if your initial attorneys become unable or unwilling to act.

Q: Does an LPA ever expire?

A: An LPA typically remains valid indefinitely, unless you revoke it or lose mental capacity. However, you can set an expiry date in your LPA if desired.

Q: Can I make changes to my LPA after it’s registered?

A: Yes, you can make changes to your LPA as long as you have mental capacity. You’ll need to complete a new LPA form and register it again.

Q: What happens if I lose mental capacity without an LPA?

A: If you don’t have an LPA in place and lose mental capacity, the court may appoint a deputy to make decisions on your behalf. This process can be time-consuming and costly compared to an LPA.

Q: How much does it cost to register an LPA?

A: The standard registration fee for an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is £82 (as of April 1, 2024).

Q: Are there any exemptions or reductions in cost?

A: Yes, there are exemptions and reductions available:

  • Reduced Fee: A reduced fee of £41 per LPA may be available if you or your partner claim certain benefits.
  • Exemption: The registration fee may be waived entirely if you’re receiving income support, pension credit guarantee credit, or Universal Credit.

Q: How long does it take to register an LPA?

A: The timeframe for registering an LPA with the OPG typically takes around four to six weeks. This can vary depending on the workload and any complexities with your application.

Remember: An LPA is a powerful tool, but it’s important to choose your attorneys wisely and ensure they understand your wishes. Regularly discuss your LPA with your attorneys and update it if your circumstances change.