An elderly client law expert is urging people to act now to ensure their wishes are safeguarded in later life.
Kristina Smith, partner at Birchall Blackburn Law, warns that people across Lancashire risk leaving major finance and health decisions in the hands of strangers by not having a lasting power of attorney (LPA) in place.
An LPA safeguards a person’s wishes if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of an accident or an illness like dementia, yet 88 per cent of people in the North West don’t have one in place – the highest percentage in the entire country according to a report from Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).
Figures from the report show that 78 per cent of people in the North West would want a family member or friend to make vital decisions if they became incapacitated.
Kristina explains that many people think if they suffered an illness or accident their next of kin would be responsible for major decisions, this is not always the case and a loved one may not be able to make a decision unless there’s an LPA in place.
Kristina said: “A Lasting Power of Attorney is one of the most important legal documents a person can make and these figures are a stark reminder to act early and plan for every eventuality.
“When somebody loses mental capacity, whether through illness or accident, it can become impossible for them to handle their own financial and health affairs. Decisions on these issues can only be made by somebody else if they have been authorised to do so in an LPA. Without an LPA relatives can face long delays and expensive court applications and distress getting formal authority to make the decisions.
“An LPA can only be set up while a person has mental capacity, once capacity is lost it is too late.”
The SFE is an independent, national organisation of more than 1,500 lawyers who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.