Last updated 31st May 2019
It’s understandable that end of life plans usually focus on making sure loved ones are provided for.
What’s harder to think about is what would happen to you if you were no longer able to make decisions for yourself.
Building power of attorney into your future plans, will better prepare you for whatever life throws at you.
Find a simple guide below to everything you need to know about lasting power of attorney.
What is power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make decisions for another person who is no longer able to, or no longer wants to, make their own decisions.
Types of power of attorney
Ordinary power of attorney
Gives someone the authority to look after your financial affairs for a period of time. For example, if you’re physically ill or abroad for a long time. An ordinary power of attorney is automatically withdrawn if you lose mental capacity.
Lasting power of attorney (LPA)
Gives someone the authority to look after your affairs and make decisions for you, if, in the future, you become unable to or choose not to. For example, a dementia diagnosis. A lasting power of attorney must be set up while you have the mental capacity to do so.
What does a lasting power of attorney cover?
Health and welfare LPA
Gives someone the authority to make a range of decisions relating to your care on your behalf. From what you should eat or wear, to very important decisions, such as the medical treatment you receive.
A health and welfare LPA only comes into force at the point you can no longer make these decisions for yourself.
Property and financial affairs LPA
Gives someone the authority to make a range decisions about your money and property. From collecting your benefits to paying your bills and selling your home.
With your permission, a property and financial affairs LPA can be used as soon as it’s registered.
When would someone need power of attorney?
You might need a power of attorney for a few reasons.
It could be a temporary situation, for example if you’re in hospital and need someone to help you look after things in day to day life such as paying utility bills or speaking to your bank.
Or, it could be a long-term thing, for example if you are diagnosed with dementia or another illness that could affect your mental capacity. This could mean that you lose the ability to make your own decisions in the future.
Illnesses such as dementia, a stroke or serious injury can affect anyone’s mental capacity at any time and at any age.
Also, if you’re married or in a civil partnership, the right to make decisions on your behalf, is not given to your partner automatically.
That’s why it’s worth setting up a lasting power of attorney regardless of your age, your health or relationship. Life is unpredictable and no one knows what might happen in the future.
What is mental capacity?
Mental capacity means that you understand a decision that needs to be made, why you need to make it, and the likely outcome of your decision.
Depending on the circumstance, you might be able to make some decisions and not others. For example, someone might be able to choose something simple like that to wear for the day but might not understand the implications when choosing an insurance plan
How do you give someone lasting power of attorney?
You can make a lasting power of attorney (LPA) online or by using paper forms. Follow the below steps:
- Decide who you’d like to have lasting power of attorney.
- Talk to this person about your decision.
- Contact the Office of the Public Guardian to get the relevant forms and an information pack which is also available on Gov.uk.
- Download the forms or fill them in online.
- Get the lasting power of attorney signed by a certificate provider. This person signs the document to confirm that you understand the decision you’re making, and that you haven’t been put under any pressure to sign it.
- The certificate provider must be someone you know well or a professional person such as a doctor, social worker or solicitor.
- You must register the LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.
You must register your LPA while you still have the mental capacity to do so and it can’t be used during the registration process which takes about 9 weeks.
If you have already signed the LPA but lose mental capacity whilst the process is taking place, your attorney can register it for you.
How much does a lasting power of attorney cost?
In England and Wales, there's a fee of £82 to register your LPA.
If you’re on a low income, you may be eligible for a 50% discount, and if you’re receiving certain benefits you won’t have to pay anything at all.
How do I make changes to my power of attorney?
You can change or end a lasting power of attorney at any time as long as you have the mental capacity to do so. For example, if your relationship with an attorney changes.
Cancelling power of attorney
Raise your concerns with the Office of the Public Guardian, which has responsibility for monitoring attorneys and deputies and can investigate allegations of mistreatment or fraud. It can report concerns to another agency, such as the police or social services, if appropriate.
To speak to someone confidentially about your concerns of financial misuse or abuse, call the Action on Elder Abuse helpline on 080 8808 8141.
What if I lose capacity and don’t have a power of attorney?
If you lose the capacity to make your own decisions and you don’t have a lasting power of attorney or enduring power of attorney, you will need to apply to the Court of Protection.
The Court of Protection will:
- Decide whether you have the mental capacity to make a decision
- Make an order relating to the health and care decisions or property and financial decisions of someone who lacks mental capacity
- Appoint a deputy to make decisions on behalf of someone who lacks mental capacity