A smiling carer chats with an elderly lady

G8 Dementia Summit 2013: time to consider a power of attorney?

On Wednesday 11 December, the UK hosts the G8 Dementia Summit, which aims to develop co-ordinated action on dementia.

As the number of people living with dementia increases, medical research is imperative and the conference places a welcome spotlight on the need for investment and innovation to improve the prevention and treatment of dementia for future generations.

From a legal and financial perspective, I would emphasise that it is also important for people to consider how they would like their affairs to be dealt with and to put the appropriate arrangements in place to make managing those affairs as easy and straightforward as possible, in the event that they lose mental capacity.

The best way of providing for this possibility is to draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). The number of LPAs being registered with the Office of the Public Guardian now stands at 210,000 per year, which is encouraging, but more of us need to make one.

It is not always necessary to use a solicitor to draw up an LPA, but if there is any family dissent then the position needs very careful thought. Bringing in an independent third party, whether that is a trusted family friend, accountant or other professional may be the answer.

As discussed before on this blog, it is worth considering including a condition in your LPA which restates the attorney’s duty to keep accounts and perhaps requires them to produce the accounts to an independent third party for scrutiny each year.  This creates transparency and will reassure other family members.

A diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean that it is too late for an LPA to be drawn up. If a medical professional is able to certify that the person wishing to draw up the LPA understands what they are doing and is under no pressure to enter into it, then an LPA can be drawn up, notwithstanding the fact that they have recently been diagnosed with an illness that may lead to their mental incapacity.

It is, however, preferable to give the matter some thought well before this situation arises. Taking steps to put the appropriate legal building blocks in place now will provide some reassurance that your affairs will be dealt with properly in the future.