This vital document is an important piece of paperwork, especially for those whose lives are affected by dementia. With one the financial aspects of caring can be simple, without one it can be hell. Find out what it is used for…

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document which lets you appoint someone (or multiple people) who you trust to act on your behalf in different areas of your life.

It’s a useful document because it means that should something happen to you, and you’re unable to make decisions for yourself, there will be someone who can make them for you in a safe and fair way, keeping your best interests at heart.

What’s a Lasting Power of Attorney got to do with dementia?

A Power of Attorney is important for people with dementia because it’s highly likely that someone with the condition will eventually lose the ability to make decisions for themselves. Although the time it takes to reach this point will vary from person to person, unless something happens to them (for example another health problem), we know that they will lose their capacity to make decisions, making it a vital document to set up.

What if you don’t have one?

If you don’t have a LPA and need to act on behalf of your loved one, you will have to apply to the Court of Protection to become a Deputy, which is much more complicated and expensive process.

The two types of Lasting Power of Attorney

There are two types of Power of Attorney and you can set up one or both.

1. Property and Financial Affairs LPA
As the name suggests this type of LPA gives someone the authority to manage your property and money. This could include bank or building society accounts, bills, collecting a pension or benefits and even selling your home.

2. Health and Welfare LPA
This covers areas surrounding your health and wellbeing, including decisions around your daily care (washing, dressing, eating), medical care and treatment (such as resuscitation) or whether it’s time to move into a care home. It’s sometimes called a Personal Welfare LPA.

The two types are similar in the way they’re set up. The main difference is that you can only start using a Health and Welfare LPA after the person it’s been set up for is unable to make a decision – known as lacking mental capacity. The Property and Financial Affairs LPA can be used before someone has lost mental capacity, unless it specifies otherwise.

Did you know? For every three people that have a property and financial affairs LPA, there is one person with a health and welfare LPA.

Other names for a Lasting Power of Attorney

Enduring Power of Attorney
You may sometimes hear Power of Attorney referred to as Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). This was the old name for what was a similar document, although it only covered finances and property. The Lasting Power of Attorney was introduced in October 2007 and replaced the old system of EPA.

However, if you or someone you know made an Enduring Power of Attorney before October 2007, it will still be valid. An EPA may be used without it having to be registered first (like a LPA), but this won’t apply for decisions relating to financial and property matters. Once you’ve lost mental capacity, your attorney will need to register the EPA with the Office of the Public Guardian to make any further decisions.

Enduring Power of Attorney is also the name given to power of attorney if it’s set up in Northern Ireland.

Ordinary Power of Attorney
An Ordinary Power of Attorney is not the same as a Lasting Power. It is a temporary power which allows someone to manage your bank account, sell your house or organise your tax affairs for you while you are travelling or on holiday. It is for a specific reason and intended to be valid for a short period. A Lasting Power of Attorney is usually more general in its application and as the name suggests is intended to last for a long period and once valid remains valid whether or not you have mental capacity.

General Powers of Attorney
This is the name given to Ordinary Power of Attorney if you’re in Scotland.

Continuing Power of Attorney
This is the name given to Property and Finances Lasting Power of Attorney in Scotland.

What’s the difference between a Power of Attorney and a Lasting Power of Attorney?

Not much. Power of Attorney is simply a shortened and vaguer name for Lasting Power of Attorney. It tends to cover off all the many types of Power of Attorney.

I have a Will, why do I need a LPA?

Many people haven’t heard of a Lasting Power of Attorney, and if they have, there are some that assume they don’t need to make one because they have already written a Will.

The truth is, a Will and a LPA are complete opposites. Whereas a Will protects your beneficiaries’ – your spouse, children etc – interests after you have died, a LPA protects your interests, while you’re alive.

A Will and a LPA are connected only in so much as the LPA is in operation until you die, at which point your Will ‘takes over’.

Advanced decision vs LPA

Some people choose to make something called an Advanced Decision. It’s basically a document detailing whether or not you wish to refuse specific medical treatment if you become ill later down the line.

An advanced decision differs from the health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney because it is you who is making the decision about your health rather than your appointed attorney. It will come into effect as soon as it has been signed and witnessed correctly.

An Advanced Decision is very specific and only refers to the particular treatments or medical circumstances that you include in the document. If something else happens to you that you haven’t covered in the decision, it won’t apply.

A Health and Welfare LPA covers all medical possibilities, however, it will be the attorney, not you, who makes decisions about any medical questions that arise (because it only comes into force once you lose mental capacity) unless you have stipulated anything specific when writing the LPA. You can give guidance to help your attorney with your decisions.

If you decide to make both a Health and Welfare LPA and an Advanced Decision document, it is the most recent document that will take precedence. If you made an Advanced Decision first, and then make a Health and Welfare LPA, your attorney may be able to overrule requests made in the Advanced Decision (for example life-sustaining treatment) because it was created later.

For example, if someone appointed their brother to be a Health and Welfare LPA and then later made an Advanced Decision to refuse resuscitation (DNR), if they then have a heart attack, the brother would not be able to tell medical staff to ignore the DNR request. However, if the Advanced Decision was written first, the brother would be able to ignore any requests (although strictly speaking, he wouldn’t be acting in the interests of the donor) and ask that medical staff resuscitate if needed.

Need help filling out Lasting Power of Attorney documents? Unforgettable can help! We've created an online questionnaire to help you fill out your LPA and cover off any issues related specifically to dementia and the challenges it can present. Click here for more information.