Natalie Palmer, Solicitor and Partner at Latimer Hinks, is urging people to be aware of the importance of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) in the wake of a number of distressing cases.
The firm highlights the case of veteran broadcaster Jimmy Hill who is suffering from Alzheimers. Several of his children are now embroiled in a legal battle with his third wife. He signed an Enduring Power of Attorney in 2005 to give her and a lawyer joint power to control his financial affairs. The children were not aware of it until 2008 when Mr Hill was first diagnosed with Alzheimers.
In 2007 two types of LPAs were introduced to replace Enduring Powers of Attorney. They allow an individual to give a friend, relative or adviser the ability not only to manage financial affairs but also to make decisions about health and welfare should the individual be unable to make those decisions for himself.
Natalie Palmer explained: "The Hill case and the many other cases we deal with on a regular basis highlight the need for both types of LPA (Property and Affairs and Health and Welfare) to avoid financial and administration issues, confusion and even family break-ups. When people plan for the future, they often wrongly assume that they have plenty of time to put in place retirement provisions. They may even sign a new will but they often fail to consider what would happen before they die if they are affected by dementia or another condition which impacts on their capacity to make vital decisions. If Jimmy Hill had reviewed his affairs, say after 2007 or before the onset of his dementia he could have perhaps made a Health Welfare LPA naming, for example one of his children with his wife as attorney. They could then together have been able to dictate the arrangements for his care.
"It is important however that the Attorneys appointed can agree the arrangements. I cannot stress enough the importance of LPAs and of talking to your family. Before having to face conditions such as dementia, parents should consider telling their families about how they want to be looked after and who they want to be in control of their lives both financial and personal. Having these conversations can avoid potential problems which can prove not only distressing but expensive if family members decide to consult lawyers. What most families want is to know that they are respecting the individuals wishes and signing LPAs can remove any doubt as to what those wishes are."