A timely reminder of the importance of Lasting Powers of Attorney

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Tom Bird, Associate Solicitor in BPE’s Private Wealth team, discusses how the recent Kate Garraway documentary highlighted the need for LPAs in order to give your spouse authority to make decisions on your behalf.

The documentary ‘Kate Garraway: Finding Derek’ which aired on TV this week, highlighted the traumatic situation that the popular TV presenter is currently going through, with Kate’s husband, Derek, having been hospitalised for the last year with Covid-19.

Having a loved one be in such a condition for a prolonged period is stressful enough without having to deal with the financial repercussions which can occur at such times. The show highlighted how Kate and their family’s position has been made even more complicated as they did not have legal protection in place. As if often the case in this scenario, Kate was unable to access funds to manage her husband’s care or refinance her mortgage. She did not even have the legal right to see his medical notes, owing to data protection.

It is a widely held misconception that spouses have authority to make decisions on behalf of each other just because they are married, be that in relation to decisions relating to medical and care requirements or to be able to manage an incapacitated spouse’s assets.

In reality, this is not the case unless Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are in place. There are two types of LPA – one for Property & Financial Affairs, and one for Health & Welfare. Whilst there has been a rise in the number of enquiries made about LPAs during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is estimated that only a quarter of people in the UK actually have an LPA in place.

To avoid this difficult and frustrating kind of legal situation it is important to use a specialist lawyer who is experienced in this area of the law, and is trained to support people making these crucial, complex, and difficult decisions. According to Which?, 22,000 LPAs are rejected every year so it’s essential that you get your legal documents right to ensure that these can be relied upon when they are called upon.

In Kate’s situation, whilst Derek continues to lack mental capacity and is therefore incapable of managing his own affairs, it is possible for her to make an application to the Court of Protection to obtain a Deputyship Order giving her authority to act on Derek’s behalf as his deputy. However, this is likely to take several months and such applications require a lot of preparation.  It is therefore always recommended to prepare LPAs whilst you have mental capacity rather than having to rely on your family having to apply to Court at a time which is already stressful enough.

For more information and advice on putting an LPA in place or any other private matters including Wills, estate planning and managing assets, please contact Tom Bird at tom.bird@bpe.co.uk or call 01242 248487 or contact another member of the BPE Private Wealth team.

Full details of the team and the ways we can support you can be found at www.bpe.co.uk/services/team/private-wealth/

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