As you get older, you may find that family and friends want to help you with your finances. While this can be helpful, it’s important that you’re in control of how it happens
As you get older you may want more support when it comes to managing your finances. This could be anything from asking a relative or friend for assistance in choosing the best deal on utility bills, or needing someone to monitor your investments while you take a long holiday.
The important thing to remember in all these instances is that you retain the power in specifying who should act for you and in what circumstances. Anyone you ask to act for you should be made aware that they can’t delegate this authority to anyone else without your express permission. It’s also good to ensure that other people are aware of any arrangements so they can make sure the person acting on your behalf is acting in your best interest.
You may also be considering who you’d like to make financial decisions on your behalf should you reach a point where you lack the mental capacity to do so yourself. In such cases it’s important you choose someone you can trust, as you’ll need to disclose sensitive financial data or give them access to your bank accounts.
Getting someone to act in this way is called getting a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), or a Continuing Power of Attorney in Scotland. In England and Wales there are two types of LPA – one covering your financial decisions and another one allowing your attorney to make decisions around your health and wellbeing. In Scotland there are three options, one covering finance, another covering personal welfare and a combined one.
Powers of attorney can be set up using paper forms or online. Either way you’ll need to get the people acting as your attorneys to sign the forms. You’ll also need witnesses and a certificate provider, who can confirm you’re making the decision of your own free will and that you understand what you’re doing.
You can create an online account to set up an LPA here or you can download forms to fill in here. It takes between 8–10 weeks to register an LPA. Details for how to do so in Scotland, where they aim to process applications within 30 working days, can be found here.
LPAs have proved to be popular, with April 2017 figures from the Office of the Public Guardian showing there were approximately 2.3 million LPAs registered in England and Wales.
While powers of attorney can bring peace of mind that someone’s financial affairs are being handled in a responsible way, it’s important to understand that the system has its challenges. There have been cases were the person acting as attorney has not acted in the best interests of the person who has lost mental capacity.
One recent case concerned a Normandy veteran who gave his neighbour power of attorney only to become a victim of theft. However, such cases are rare and in the vast majority of cases, powers of attorney work well. If you’re considering putting one in place, it might be worth appointing more than one attorney so no one person has too much influence over your finances.
It’s also important to understand that, as long as you have the mental capacity to do so, then you’re able to change your power of attorney. This may be because one of your attorneys has married or divorced, or died. You can also remove an attorney if you have concerns. For more details on how to do this click here.
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