Ensure Your Health and Welfare With a Power of Attorney

Author: Judith Bromley

The issue of care and welfare is gaining more and more coverage in the media. It’s not surprising really as there are more of us living well in to old age. Not only that, mental health and well being is high on the social agenda.

The subject presents a thorny question; how will you be looked after if anything happens to you? If you’re diagnosed with a degenerative mental condition, such as dementia what will you do? If you need care because you’ve been involved in an accident that’s left you mentally unable to cope on your own, or if you simply need more help as you age, whether that be at home or in a residential care facility, how will you ensure you’re well being is taken care of?

From a legal perspective, there’s a simple answer: a Lasting Power of Attorney. This is a legal document which allows a person (the donor) to select another person, or persons, to act on their behalf if they can no longer do it for themselves.

There are two types of power of attorney; property and financial affairs which gives someone of your choosing the authority to make decisions about your money and assets – paying bills, collecting benefits, selling your home – and a health and welfare Power of Attorney. This gives an attorney (the person you selected to act for you) the authority to make decisions about your lifestyle. This includes any medication you may need, where you live, what you eat and even whether you’re given life sustaining treatment or not. 

Health and Welfare Power of Attorneys are increasingly being taken up because many care homes are asking for them now. Even if people are receiving care at home, more local authorities are seeking confirmation that there is one in place and who has the authority to deal with the council on the donor’s behalf. 

Before a Power of Attorney to be implemented it has to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. Your solicitor will do this for you. Once set up and registered, a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney can only be activated at a time when you’ve lost mental capacity.

The advantage of setting up a Power of Attorney is that it gives you options. Perhaps the most important one is that it allows you to choose who you want to look after you rather who the state thinks should act for you.

You can appoint as many attorneys as you like who can make decisions for you collectively or you can give individuals authority on specific matters. Although your attorney has as much decision making power as you, you can limit their complete control if you have concerns. Your solicitor will be able to discuss this with you.

When it comes to choosing an attorney, you should think about how well the person looks after their own affairs. Are they good with money, do they make foolish or rash decisions? Do you know the person well and, more importantly, do you trust them to make decisions in your best interests? After all, they’re likely to be making what could be some very important decisions on your behalf.

For a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney, you can choose anyone over the age of 18. The usual choices are a spouse or relative. You can also appoint a friend to the task or even your solicitor. If, for any reason, your attorney is unable or unwilling to act for you, you can stipulate a replacement.

Finally, a Power of Attorney gives you peace of mind. Putting one in place ensures that there’ll be someone on hand who can manage you affairs if you can’t.
If you choose not to set up a Power of Attorney and you need someone to act for you, your family will have to apply for a Deputyship with the Court of Protection. The problem with this is that it’s a costly and time consuming process (around six months) during which time the Court will decide what happens to you, not your loved ones. 

There’s also the risk that the Court will appoint a Deputy which may not be a family member or a person you would have chosen. While all this is being sorted out, your assets will be frozen which could mean your loved ones end up paying for your care, medication and any other expense you need until the Deputy has been appointed. 

If you’re interested in setting up a health and Welfare Power of Attorney, Russell & Russell offers a free no obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and needs.

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