The Importance of Being Early

The importance of being early?

There's a lot to like about the work I do. The emotions that my clients have released over the years, when they reach the point of realisation that they have done their estate planning; that necessary evil which needed to be done, but that which had been forever passed over to some hitherto unfound tomorrow, and they can stop worrying about the future now, have sometimes been overwhelming. Sighs, smiles, laughter, tears - all invariably accompanied by tea & biscuits, and sometimes with a hug - it's a great feeling knowing I've helped someone rest easy at night.

There are though, as you may imagine, some days I'd rather forget. On three occasions recently, I've had to turn down the invitation to complete Lasting Powers of Attorney for someone, because they did not have the mental capacity to undertake Lasting Powers of Attorney.

On such occasions, it was the adult son or daughter who contacted me and made the appointment, concerned that something wasn't quite right with mum or dad. Then comes the revelation - that they know they "should have done this months/years ago, but it didn't seem necessary then". More often than not when I hear that kind of sentiment my heart sinks, because more often than not, they've left it too late. The appointment has been made by son or daughter because mum or dad isn't capable of doing so.

You see, you have to make your LPA for yourself. You have to be able to say "I am in my right mind, and after due consideration, I am happy to allow that person/those people to make decisions for me if there comes a time when I can't make them for myself" - or certainly be capable of displaying or communicating that sentiment. The LPA documents have a part where someone has to testify to the fact that you are indeed of sound mind; and that you fully understand the potential impact of what you're doing, that you understand the reach and power that your attorney(s) will have. A certificate provider can be a person who has known you reasonably well and for longer than two years, or someone with relevant professional experience such as an estate planner like myself, a solicitor, or even your GP.

At the point where someone no longer has the capacity to make their LPA's, their loved ones will have to apply to the Court of Protection for something called a Deputyship. This effectively results in the loved one becoming a deputy to the Court, accountable and answerable for every single little thing they do. It's a slow process, with even a fast-tracked application taking up to five months; and as for cost, well, expect to pay anything up to £3500, with on-going annual costs of around £750.

You'll have many, many chances to do your Lasting Powers of Attorney. However, if you don't take them, it could be too late and then your loved ones will recognise the importance of being early.

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