An alarming new report reveals people in the South West are leaving major decisions about housing, assets and care to chance.

86% of people in the South West are currently living with no control over important later-life decisions around their housing, assets, heath, and care, according to a new report by SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly), the national organisation representing legal professionals such as Sarah Hargreaves from Michelmores specialising in helping people plan for later life.

The report reveals that whilst 49% of people in the South West have a will in place to manage their affairs after death, only 8% 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. 

82% want a family member or friend to make important decisions on their behalf, in the event of illness or an accident. However, few are aware that without an LPA in place, any individuals’ 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 that have taken steps to plan ahead for later life may still be at risk, due to poor quality legal advice and invalid documents. 65% 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.

Sarah Hargreaves, Senior Associate, at Michelmores and Regional Co-Ordinator of the Devon and Cornwall Group  SFE, said: 

"It is recognised that the population is ageing and, as we are living longer, the chance of us becoming mentally incapable of making our own decisions at some future stage increases. We are regularly asked to prepare Wills for clients, yet few have considered who will be able to make decisions for them about the finances or health and care if they become unable to make those decisions themselves.

Unfortunately for those who have not made an LPA, the position can become complicated and expensive, as it may be necessary to resort to the Court of Protection. We would encourage all adults to at least consider making an LPA. This will enable the individual to choose for themselves the trusted person or persons that they would want to help them with or make decisions for them."

Lakshmi Turner, Chief Executive of SFE, said: 

“Most people assume that if they suffer an illness or accident, their next of kin will be responsible for vital decisions. The reality is starkly different – loved ones may not be able to make a decision on your behalf unless you have an LPA in place.

An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have. If you have children, own a home, or have views on your preferred health treatment, we urge you to go to an expert to get the right advice.”

SFE is an independent, national organisation of professionals, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, committed to providing the highest quality of legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.