My parent/relative is getting older - what can I do to prepare for when they need help?

Nobody likes to think about a parent or loved one getting older or reaching the end of their life, but planning ahead can prevent many difficult situations from arising. Your first step should be to find out whether your loved one has a will in place, to ensure that their wishes surrounding their property and assets are upheld in the event of their death.

However, before they pass away, your parent or relative may reach a point where they lose the capacity to make their own decisions, either through physical ill health or because of a condition like dementia. In this event, having a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place allows them to entrust their affairs to named individuals (‘attorneys’), who are authorised to make important decisions on their behalf.

There are two types of LPA, one of which concerns decisions about property and finance, the other, decisions about health and welfare. Both of them are extremely powerful legal documents, allowing attorney(s) to make important decisions about the management of property, bank accounts, and bill payments, and choices around care plans, medical treatment, and end of life wishes.

For decisions around property and financial affairs, an individual can activate their LPA before they lose capacity, so if your lovedone decides they no longer want to manage their own finances, they can pass this responsibility on to you immediately. For decisions around health and welfare, an LPA is only activated once the individual is deemed to have lost capacity.

As a family member, your relative may ask you to act as an attorney for their LPA. You may be asked to share this responsibility with other attorneys (such as siblings), and you will be required to complete and co-sign the LPA application. There are many factors to consider as an attorney, such as whether your relative wants you to act jointly with any other attorneys (meaning that you must all make decisions together), or joint and severally (meaning that you can each make decisions about your relative’s affairs separately as well as together).

Completing an LPA application is an extremely complex process and often raises difficult issues for families around sensitive topics like inheritance and end-of-life wishes. Instructing a specialist solicitor to help with your application is the best way to ensure that everyone involved is confident about the process, and that the best interests of your loved ones are served, both now and in the future.