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Living wills and Lasting Power of Attorney: what you need to know

People are advised to draft living wills and get Lasting Power of Attorney in case they become incapacitated. Find out what you need to know. Looking after your wealth: Lasting Power of Attorney and living wills are a great help to family and friends needing to pay the bills if you are incapacitated. Looking after your wealth: Lasting Power of Attorney and living wills are a great help to family and friends needing to pay the bills if you are incapacitated.

What are living wills?

A living will is the term given to an agreement designed to say what a person would like to happen if they become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for themselves. This can help the heartache that may be involved by families who have to apply to the Court of Protection, which has been heavily criticised.

By drawing up a lasting power of attorney agreement, you can nominate someone to act on your behalf. Consumer group Which? explains...

The term 'Living Will' can be divided into two categories:

An Advance Statement

This type of living will provides information on the level of medical treatment you want should you become terminally ill. It must be respected by health care professionals and could include some of the following: Where you would like to be cared for (at home, or in a hospice) How your medical treatment might be affected by religious or spiritual beliefs How you might want to be treated in a home or hospice (like whether you’d like to be bathed or showered) An Advanced Statement is not legally binding, but the NHS states that anyone in charge of your care must take your wishes into consideration through this statement. Record of an Advanced Statement should be stored with your medical records.

An Advance Decision

If you want to refuse certain types of treatment in the future, you can write an Advance Decision, sometimes called an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment. This enables you to dictate the terms of your treatment should you be physically unable to communicate them, due to an accident for example.

Within this document, you can be specific about the treatment you do not want to receive. You can also refuse treatment that may keep you alive, like life support or CPR. You must be as clear as possible on the circumstances for your refusal of treatment

Making an Advance Decision legally binding

Much like making a will, your advance decision must be written and signed by both you and a witness. It must comply with the Mental Capacity Act and once signed supercedes any decision taken by other people on your behalf. . The NHS suggests speaking a doctor or nurse about the treatment you want to avoid and the implications for doing so. You have the final say on who sees the document, but you should make sure that your family, carers and/or health and social care professionals know about it, and know where to find it. You can keep a copy in your medical records.

Lasting power of attorney

Lasting power of attorney (LPA) replaced the previous enduring power of attorney (EPA) system in 2007. Every year, thousands of people become incapable of managing their finances because of illness or injury. Although nobody wants to imagine it happening to them, making preparations early could save family members at least the headache, if not the heartache.

If a person becomes ‘mentally incapacitated’, a relative or friend would usually assume responsibility for paying the bills – but the process is rarely simple. Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can smooth out some of the bumps by granting a trusted friend or relative the authority to make decisions on another’s behalf. However, even with this extra power, attorneys have often struggled to fulfil their bank duties because of a lack of awareness about what power of attorney is. New guidelines have been published to address this. There are two types of LPA – one for managing property and finances, the other for decisions about health.

Improvements this year have speeded up the process of registering these documents with the Office of the Public Guardian, reducing the waiting period from six weeks to four. But this action must be taken while a person is still of sound mind. Unfortunately, many do not discover the value of an LPA until it is too late.

There are two types of LPA - a property and affairs LPA, which gives control over financial matters, and a health and welfare version, which covers medication and care. You do not need to have both. In each case you may choose more than one attorney - this is the person that you nominate to control your affairs. In Scotland, a continuing power of attorney is used for financial mattes and welfare power of attorney for personal affairs.

Who should I choose?

This is a personal matter and many people choose their spouse or partner, but it may be worth naming an additional person who is younger. This is often sons or daughters or grandchildren.

Registration is essential

An LPA can only be used once it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, or the Office of the Public Guardian in Scotland.

How to do it

Find out more about how to set up Lasting Power of Attorney here at Gov.uk

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