The vast majority (86%) of people in the UK are currently living with no control over important later-life decisions around their housing, assets, heath, and care, according to a new report by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), the national organisation of lawyers who provide specialist advice for people planning for later life. 

The report reveals that while 39% of people have made a will to manage their affairs after death, only 7% have a lasting power of attorney (LPA) in place to safeguard their wishes in the event they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves, due to accident or illness like dementia.

Given that 84% want a family member or friend to make important decisions on their behalf, in the event of illness or an accident, only a small percentage have made the necessary arrangements. Few are aware that, without an LPA in place, any individual’s affairs, such as their end-of-life wishes and health treatments, can be left in the hands of third party solicitors, social workers, medical doctors or the British courts.

Even the minority of people who have taken steps to plan ahead for later life may still be at risk, due to poor quality legal advice and invalid documents. More than half (51%) of the people with LPAs in place did not use experts or legal guidance, instead taking a gamble using online resources, non-legal advisers, or off-the-shelf kits. This percentage rises to 85% in the West Midlands and 71% in the East of England. 

Stuart Adams, an associate in the Penningtons Manches private client team and a full accredited member of SFE, commented on the findings: “The report’s findings are disappointing but they do not come as a surprise and highlight that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the benefits of LPAs. Too many people assume that their spouse, civil partner or close family member will automatically be able to look after their finances or personal welfare and this is simply untrue. 

“Putting in place an LPA really is one of the essential ‘must dos’. Without one in place, you are taking a gamble as, potentially, decisions will be made by someone that you may not have chosen or could even be a complete stranger. Through longevity, illness or accident the need for protection is ever present. With professional advice and guidance you should have no difficulty in making an LPA and securing your piece of mind.”

The report ‘Who will decide for you when you can't?’ can be read here.