- Thursday, 09 August 2012
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are more than 800,000 people with dementia in the UK. By 2021, that figure will be over a million.
As Alzheimer associations around the world prepare to support World Alzheimer’s Month in September, marking the first global month-long awareness-raising campaign, Val Prosser, from leading south east law firm Furley Page, offers guidance on how to get your financial affairs in order if you’ve been diagnosed with dementia.
“Being told you have a serious illness can be a shock, not just for the sufferer but for their family as well,” says Chartered Legal Executive Val, a member of Furley Page’s highly specialised Elderly Client Team.
“Money may be the last thing you want to think about at a time like this but when it’s a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s, you may only have a limited time to make sure all your financial matters are in order. Sadly, symptoms are likely to get worse and eventually you may have deteriorated to such an extent that you become incapable of looking after yourself and your affairs.
“Mental incapacity can strike at any time but by planning ahead, you can ease the potential burden on your loved ones. Knowing that your affairs have been set up the way you want them to be will also give you complete piece of mind.
“We all know we should write a Will but far fewer of us consider setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) – a legal document which enables you to choose someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf in the future if you should become incapable of making such decisions yourself.
“It will allow that person (the attorney) to take over the running of your financial affairs on your behalf and they may also make health and welfare decisions if you lack the capacity to do so. Completing an LPA document means you can avoid the complications and difficulties your family might face in the future should you suffer from dementia.
“There are two types of LPA: property and financial affairs, which allows your attorney to look after your bank accounts and pay your bills, including care home fees and the sale of your property if necessary; and health and welfare, which allows them to make decisions about your care and medical treatment, including life-sustaining treatment.
“Of course, if you retain your faculties and simply need assistance with managing your affairs, then your attorney will have the legal authority to do so for you but you will still have control over the decisions made.
“Lasting Powers of Attorney must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before they can be used by the attorney. This can take about three months so, to avoid delays, registration should take effect immediately after the documents are completed.”
So what happens if you don’t have an LPA in place before you or a relative loses capacity?
Explains Val: “Unfortunately, once a person no longer has the mental capacity to make an LPA, it’s too late to make one. In this case, an application will need to be made to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy to deal with the financial affairs of that person. It’s a very lengthy procedure and several application forms will need to be completed, including a report issued by the doctor.
“The Deputyship Order can take more than six months to issue, during which time no access to funds can be obtained – and that will inevitably lead to more anxiety and stress for your family.
“The best advice is always to plan ahead. You might think it’s never going to happen to you but dementia can, and does, affect people under 65. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, more than 17,000 people of working age in the UK suffer from dementia although the true figure could be up to three times higher than that.
“By taking steps now, you’ll be helping yourself and saving your family a great deal of heartache and anxiety in the future.”
Val Prosser is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, a national organisation of lawyers who provide specialist legal advice for older or vulnerable people, their families and carers.
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