Lasting Powers of Attorney – a personal insurance policy

I remember about 20 years ago when I saw an 80-year-old client, let’s call him Jim, and Jim told me that old age doesn’t come by itself, it brings with it a whole host of problems one had never contemplated in life. Now, statisticians are saying we are all living longer and at the speed life moves today (think of emails and technology) we must try and be better prepared for what our future holds – whatever that may be.

And of course some of the problems faced by the elderly are faced by younger people too. I applaud the attempts of the young Royals acting as patrons of the charity Heads Together which was the charity of the year for the 2017 London Marathon. The charity’s website explains:

Too often, people feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health. This fear of prejudice and judgement stops people from getting help and can destroy families and end lives. Heads Together wants to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.

How many times have you opened the door of your fridge to get something and then forgotten what you’ve gone to get? In many ways this type of “confusion” might be acceptable in the elderly, expected almost, but for younger people it can be very difficult to accept or come to terms with mental health and social issues.

So how do we raise awareness of the simplicity and security offered by Lasting Powers of Attorney? Everyone in this manic day and age should have such a document in place, so if there is a point in life, or later life, where help is needed to make decisions on property and welfare, then that person selected i.e. the attorney has complete legal standing to do so.

I have been canvassing what is putting people off making Lasting Powers of Attorney? Is it the mistaken fear of loss of control, or the cost? Another “Jim” came to see me recently. He is a thrifty man and had been widowed and his children live away. He really needed to get Lasting Powers in place for a variety of reasons and he astounded me by saying, yes, he was happy to pay for them, as he had been paying his house insurance for over 45 years and never once claimed. He perceived the LPAs to be a personal insurance policy of a kind and he was happy to put that protection in place. The absolute benefit of these LPAs is that they of course will protect the donor if mental health issues arise in the future and they can’t make decisions for themselves, but of course with the financial LPAs it means the attorney can assist in case of physical incapacity too.

I urge everyone taking legal advice about their estate planning to include Lasting Powers of Attorney. It’s just as well we don’t have a crystal ball to let us know what the future holds, but equally it’s just as well to have a security blanket in place in case it’s needed.

Nia Wharry qualified in 1998 and has been a member of SFE since 2004. She holds the SFE Older Client Care in Practice Award. She heads her own Wills & Estate Planning team at Clarke & Son in Basingstoke, Hampshire. Nia is also a member of STEP and the Probate Section of the Law Society.