Charities and universities across the UK are encouraging people to consider setting up lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) as the number of people diagnosed with dementia is rising rapidly in the UK
New research from Alzheimer’s Society suggests that the number of dementia sufferers in the country is likely to increase by 156 per cent between now and 2021.
However, a recent study by the University of Plymouth has revealed a lack of awareness of LPAs. Its research into rural communities found that there “was a lack of knowledge about crucial legal steps such as creatinga LPA to cover when they were no longer able to run the business” and that “few had kept their wills up-to-date.”
There are two types of LPA, one for your financial affairs and another for your health and welfare. A LPA is a document which appoints a trusted person(s) to handle the financial affairs of a loved one who no longer has the ‘mental capacity’ or health to do so themselves.
LPAs can play an integral part in handling the affairs of a person with dementia and yet the study of Britain’s agricultural community by the university found that many people had a very limited knowledge of what legal options are available to them in the event that they are affected by dementia.
A separate report from Diverse Abilities, a learning disability charity based in South West England, found that many families “do not even think about putting a LPA in place, because they assume their loved ones would automatically have the power to deal with their personal affairs”.
The charity said: “This is not the case in English Law and if you or a family member lose capacity and have not made a LPA, a relative can’t just step in and act on their behalf.
“[This] could cause much distress, expense and frustration in the future – normally at a time that it is not needed”.
LPAs can be drawn up by seeking specialist legal advice from a solicitor. If one isn’t in place before a person loses the mental capacity then an application will need to be made to the Court of Protection for a deputy to be appointed and this can be a long, expensive and difficult process.