World Alzheimer’s Day – think about your future and the future of those you love
Today is World Alzheimer’s Day (21st September 2018).
It is an international campaign that aims to raise awareness and challenge the common stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s related dementia.
Understandably, many people prefer not to think about the possibility of losing their mental capacity. However, statistics show that more and more people are developing the condition which often prevents them from looking after their financial affairs or making sound decisions about their health and welfare.
Today therefore is as good a day as any to think about the future and take steps now to help those that you want to look after you, should you develop dementia.
Everyone should ideally have a document called a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) no matter how old they are or whether they are predisposed to dementia. We have previously written about these, please click here if you want to find out more. By way of a quick recap, if you have not prepared a LPA whilst you still have the necessary mental capacity, it is likely you will be unable to prepare one, if mental capacity is lost. If you have lost capacity before you have prepared LPAs, your relatives (even your spouse) do not become automatically entitled to deal with your financial and health affairs.
What are the options if you or a loved one develops Alzheimer’s without having an LPA in place?
If you have a loved one who wants to, and can, look after you
If you lose capacity without LPAs in place, there is another way in which your loved ones can become legally authorised to handle your affairs. This is referred to as a Deputyship Order. The person who wishes to look after you will need to apply to the Court of Protection to obtain such an Order.
Like LPAs there are two types of Deputyship Orders:-
- one for health and welfare and
- one for property and financial affairs.
These Orders are very similar to LPAs but they are much more costly and time consuming. It may take over 6 months for the Court of Protection to approve the appointment of a potential Deputy. This means that nobody will be able to access your bank accounts or make health decisions for you before the Deputyship Order is granted. A court fee will also need to be paid.
In addition, being a Deputy requires excellent organisational skills as the Deputy will have to submit a report to the Office of the Public Guardian (“OPG”) (the body that regulates Attorneys and Deputies) annually. No report is required under LPAs. The OPG may query any transactions and decisions that the Deputy has made and, if it seems that they have abused their power as a Deputy or that they are unable to deal with this role properly, the OPG or the Local Authority (i.e. the Council) can request a professional Deputy to be appointed.
If you have a loved one who is unable to look after you
If your loved ones are unable to look after you and your affairs for whatever reasons, they can ask a solicitor who is also authorised to act as a professional Deputy or is part of the Court of Protection panel of Deputies to act as your Deputy. The timescales for the appointment of a professional/panel Deputy depend on the urgency of the application but usually take a few months. Professional and panel Deputies are entitled to charge on an hourly rate basis, approved by the Court of Protection. Their fees are also assessed by the Senior Court Costs Office in some circumstances.
If a relative of yours is living with dementia or another condition affecting their mental capacity and they have not set up LPAs, we are able to help you with making a Deputy application.
Alternatively, if you feel like the responsibility of being a Deputy is too burdensome and you are concerned that you might find it difficult to allocate the time needed to take on the role properly; we can assist with this too. Michael Culver who is a Partner and head of the Wealth and Estate Planning teams is a Court of Protection panel Deputy and will be able to look after your loved one’s finances and/or welfare irrespective of how complex their affairs are.