As the number of dementia cases steadily rises across the UK, there has been a surge in applications for Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) with most recent research from the Alzheimer’s Society showing an 89% increase in those registering for LPA between 2013 and 2015. However, experts are warning that whilst awareness of LPA has greatly improved for dementia sufferers, or those entering old age, too many people are still unaware of the importance of having appropriate LPA provisions in place in the event of sudden or unexpected mental or physical incapacity.
In London alone it is estimated that, out of an adult population of over 8 million, only 7% will have LPA in place.
Declan McCusker, who is a partner at London based Chartered Accountants Perrys and advises on LPA applications, said:
“Losing mental capacity isn’t just isolated to those suffering from dementia and isn’t always a gradual thing. There are numerous reasons why somebody could suddenly become non compos mentis. Problems could arise for a family’s finances if LPA hasn’t already been set up and somebody loses mental capacity unexpectedly. At this point it is too late to do anything about it meaning, at an already incredibly difficult time, you could be faced with the added pressure of not being able to access vital funds for living expenses.”
Without Lasting Power of Attorney, loved ones can find themselves mired in a nightmarish and expensive court system in order to access the cash they need to survive.
For example, if a family member is injured in a car accident and falls into a coma, gaining immediate access to their bank account without Lasting Power of Attorney will be an incredibly lengthy and expensive process. The only way to resolve the issue would be to apply to the Court of Protection to become a ‘deputy’ for a relative’s affairs.
Accessing finances through the Court of Protection has been described as “alien, intrusive, time-consuming and costly” by one woman who found herself trying to run her family’s finances after an accident left her husband in a coma for three years.
Children’s author and mother-of-two Heather Bateman explained to Saga Magazine that, after she witnessed her husband being hit by a car in 2003, not only was she traumatised by events but, to add to her heartache, she was also unable to access money in his sole account – used primarily to pay for the majority of their household bills. To continue keeping a roof over their heads, Heather’s only choice was to apply to the Court of Protection to provide a living allowance and keep scrupulous records detailing every penny she spent.
Having a legal written Will in place or having a bank account in joint names will not protect you either, as Declan explains:
“Even if you have a Will in place, this is only applicable on death and will not help you in the event somebody is incapacitated mentally or physically during their lifetime. Similarly, if you hold an account in joint names the account will be frozen so of course the consequences of not having LPA could be extremely complicated and difficult to rectify. My advice would be to discuss your personal circumstances with a qualified professional who can assess your requirements and organise an appropriate application for LPA on your behalf.”