Choosing an attorney for your LPA: eight crucial questions to ask
Coodes Solicitors Private Client Executive Bernadette Polkinghorne outlines eight key considerations when choosing an attorney for your LPA.
When putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), many people underestimate the responsibility of their chosen attorneys. In some cases, this can result in those who have been trusted to deal with their loved one’s affairs finding they are unable to cope with the task.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document, which gives a person or group of people the authority to make key decisions on behalf of someone who may need assistance with their financial affairs, or if they have ‘lost capacity’ for making decisions for their financial and health care decisions. This could be the result of a condition, such as dementia, or a life-changing accident. The people they choose are called attorneys and are often adult children or other close family members.
I often meet with clients who have not fully considered the scale of the responsibilities of attorneys. This can sometimes mean they have not given sufficient consideration to who they name on their LPA.
1. Does my attorney understand what is required of them?
An attorney should understand the breadth of their responsibilities. When choosing an attorney you should ask yourself a number of questions:
- Have you explained the process and what they might need to do?
- Are they good with money and keeping accounts of expenditure?
- Do they have knowledge of your assets and any particular healthcare wishes or needs, such as going into a home and life sustaining treatment?
Many people have strong feelings about what they would wish to happen if they became seriously ill and unable to recover. For some, length of life is the priority, while for others dignity and being pain-free is more important.
2. Do I need more than one attorney?
Some people decide to appoint more than one attorney. In this case, you will need to decide whether the attorneys act together in all decisions or if they can potentially act independently of one another. Allowing attorneys to act independently provides greater flexibility. It can be helpful if, for example, one of the attorneys is away or when an urgent decision needs to be made. If you have more than one attorney, you should make it clear to them whether or not they are able to act independently.
It is important to ensure that you appoint attorneys who can work together. Careful consideration should be taken if your attorneys live in other countries or different parts of the country.
It is crucial not to include someone as an attorney simply to avoid them “feeling left out”.
3. Should I have different attorneys for the two LPAs?
There are two types of LPAs, which cover a whole range of considerations relating to your life, health and finances:
- A Lasting Power of Attorney for Health & Welfare, covers decisions on a range of health and welfare issues, including where you live and the medical care you receive such as life sustaining treatment.
- A Lasting Power of Attorney for Property & Financial Affairs covers decisions in relation to your financial and property matters, including your bank accounts, selling your property and dealing with financial organisations.
You may want to appoint a different person or people for finance and health and welfare. For example, you may want to appoint all of your children as attorneys on a Health & Welfare LPA, but possibly not for a Property & Financial Affairs LPA. This might be the case if attorneys live a distance apart and would not be able to assist on daily basis.
4. Will my attorney have the time to manage my affairs?
It’s important to emphasise to your chosen attorney just how much time it will take to manage your affairs. You should be realistic about what will be involved. Managing your affairs can be time-consuming and will be ongoing, potentially over a long period of time.
Among many other potential tasks, an attorney can be expected to go to the bank, contact utility companies and apply for benefits on your behalf.
Are you affected by this issue? Do you need legal advice?Contact our team today
5. Does my attorney understand my finances?
Your attorney should have a strong understanding of your personal approach to money and how you would wish to spend it. An attorney should also know where all your financial documents are stored, in case they need to refer to them.
6. Will my attorneys be able to agree on decisions?
Sadly, disagreements around LPAs sometimes arise among family members. This may be because there is a concern that the person putting in place the LPA (known as the donor) is not making an informed choice about who they are appointing as attorney.
Disputes also sometimes occur when other family members or friends do not believe the attorney, or attorneys, are acting in the donor’s best interests. This could include when the attorney is spending money on the donor’s behalf or making key decisions about their health and welfare.
If you have any concerns about a family member’s LPA, you can seek legal advice. Our Personal Disputes team has experience of these complex and sensitive situations.
7. Does my attorney live locally?
Although not essential, it may be easier if your attorney, or attorneys, lives locally to you. For practical reasons, an attorney may need to access your house to retrieve documents, go to the bank on your behalf or support with welfare. If your attorney lives a long way away, there is a chance that he or she may not be able to carry out important financial and welfare actions at short notice.
8. Can I really trust my attorney?
Choosing an attorney is a very important decision. You are trusting someone with your finances and, potentially, major life decisions, including end of life care or withdrawing medical treatment. Whoever you chose, it must be someone you can trust to always act in your best interests and wherever possible, allow you to make decisions yourself.