In this article, Mark Jones highlights the importance of preparing a power of attorney before you need it.
While driving to work recently I was listening to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, and there was an item on delays at the Court of Protection which struck a chord.
The item related to a lady who suffered catastrophic brain damage as the result of a drug overdose which left her in a permanent vegetative state.
Although she remained alive, the medical advice was that she was no longer conscious and had no prospect of recovery, and her family wanted the doctors to remove her feeding tubes so that she could die peacefully. The doctors needed the permission of the Court of Protection to do this, however, and it took over four years for permission to be granted.
A common problem in any dealings with the Court of Protection and the Office of the Public Guardian is the need to balance speed with the rights of the patient, which will often require medical advice that can take time to arrange.
A case I dealt with recently concerned a husband and wife. The husband had lost capacity and was in care and his wife dealt with his affairs. When she died, arrangements needed to be put in place for somebody else to deal with her husband’s finances.
Before losing capacity, the husband had signed a Lasting Power of Attorney in favour of two attorneys, being his son and a solicitor.
A Lasting Power of Attorney has to be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used, and this can either be done when the Lasting Power of Attorney is signed or at a later date.
In this particular case, the husband had opted not to register his Lasting Power of Attorney immediately, which meant that the registration process had to start from scratch after the wife’s death.
The required medical evidence took several months to come through, which effectively froze the husband’s finances and caused various difficulties, including unpaid care fees and delays in the sale of the house.
Although everything was eventually resolved, the delay caused considerable stress for family members at an already difficult time, and it was a good example of the importance of thinking ahead and being prepared for all eventualities.
The sad truth is that any of us could lose capacity at any time. Have you considered whether your finances could be dealt with easily if the worst happened?
Are you thinking about the future?
At Newtons, our Wills, trusts and probate team is well-practised in the creation of powers of attorney, including both general and lasting powers of attorney. If you would like to discuss Lasting Power of Attorney, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly, local solicitors today.
About Mark Jones
Mark Jones is a director and senior solicitor based in Newtons’ Ripon and Harrogate offices. His specialism is contentious probate claims, and he has over 30 years of experience in private client law. He is also one of the longest-serving members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and a member of the Private Client Section of the Law Society.