Did you know that there are about 100 different types of Dementia? Sometimes, as in the case of Vascular Dementia, this can occur almost overnight. But all is not lost.
People can live happy lives for years with Dementia. They can still make many decisions for themselves. They can remember lots of things. But what toll does this take on their partner who is caring for them? Some of you may be aware that it is often the carer who suffers physically and mentally whilst trying to look after the patient. They can and do predecease the patient.
For both parties it can be essential to have a Lasting Power of Attorney, to manage both financial affairs and health issues. This can be used immediately if that is what the Donor decides – that is the person appointing the attorney to act on their behalf.
A Lasting Power of Attorney can be used by the Attorney once it has been registered by the Donor, or their solicitor, at the Office of the Public Guardian.
In a case I am dealing with at the moment, the Donor, lets call him Ed, finds it a struggle to reach his bank. He is in a care home, he does not have access to the internet, he can no longer drive and it is making it rather difficult to visit his bank. Yet he still has a lot of banking issues to attend to.This client has not lost mental capacity and you may think that there is no need to have a Lasting Power Of Attorney under the circumstances.
However, my client is elderly, does not understand everything about banking processes, and it is a struggle to cope with physical ailments. Having moved home all of the banks need to know about his new address, social services need to know how much my client has in assets in order to determine whether or not he is self funding. At the moment I am able to obtain some of this information but the main bank will not let me move money from one account to another in order to maximise interest rates and pay for care home fees and other bills.
If this client later loses mental capacity I wouldn’t be able to find out any information because I would not have the client’s ongoing authority to act. Once I have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place I can sort out all remaining issues.
In another case, a financial institution was taking money from my client’s bank account every month yet until I obtained a Lasting Power of Attorney they would not let me know why they were taking that money. It transpired it was for life assurance, this client has no close relatives and no partner!
Then there is the issue of dealing with social services; Imagine your elderly mother, Pippa, is rushed into hospital and it transpires that she has had a minor stroke. Luckily Pippa has not lost mental capacity. However, she feels very disorientated, she can no longer move her right arm and it becomes clear that she can no longer live in her own home. Now imagine fighting your way through the system trying to sort out Pippa’s finances, trying to establish which care home she can afford. If she has assets of over circa £25,000 she will be classed as self funding. However, some assets can be ring-fenced and should not be taken into account by social services. Pippa may well be entitled to state benefits such as Attendance Allowance or she may be entitled to NHS continuing funded care, meaning that the NHS are obliged to pay for some or all of her nursing care.
If you don’t have a registered Lasting Power of Attorney in place it could take a long time to obtain all of the information that you need. Banks are unlikely to give you any information, social services have on occasion overridden the wishes of family members who do not have LPAs in force. The NHS may not deal with you if you need to challenge their funding decision.
Then there are utility companies and the council tax department to deal with, none of whom are obliged to give you any information relating to your mother’s accounts held with them.
When circumstances change for our older clients it is often quickly. There are a lot of institutions to deal with and all of them can refuse to deal with family members who have no legal standing. If you have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, even if your relative has not lost mental capacity, then it can make life so much easier, and a lot less stressful.
I prefer it if clients have a relative who can act for them. However, increasingly there is no one available and all of the above tasks are far too much responsibility for a friend to cope with. In which case a solicitor is probably the next port of call. It is essential that the person looking after large sums of money keeps written records and can prove that they are acting in the best interests of the client. A solicitor is very heavily regulated and solicitors accounts are audited every year.
If you or your family need assistance with any of the above issues then please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0191 2846989.