Is your Lasting Power of Attorney putting you at risk of financial abuse?
Sarah Cornish of Coodes Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Trusts team says that the growth of DIY Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is putting growing numbers of people are at risk of financial abuse
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) should give you peace of mind. It allows you to appoint an individual to make important decisions about your finances and property, should you become unable to do so in the future. Many people see it as a sensible document to have in place as they get older. My colleague Clare McLeish outlines the LPA process here.
Sadly, LPAs are open to abuse and can sometimes lead to individual stealing from the very person they were appointed to protect. A recent ITV Tonight programme has shown the extent of the problem. The show revealed that more than 100,000 police fraud reports in last three years with victims being over 65. Many of the perpetrators were close family – often children or grandchildren of the victim.
More of us are living longer. According to the Office of National Statistics, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are now the leading cause of death in England and Wales. Many of us will, it seems, be affected by these conditions and lose capacity to handle our own affairs.
More than two thirds of the people polled by ITV researchers for the programme did not take legal advice when setting up their power of attorney. Some people just do not get round to setting up an LPA. Without an LPA, decisions about your health, finances and affairs will fall to a court appointed Deputy should you lose capacity. It is now possible to set up an LPA online. With this being a cheaper option, many people are now choosing this over having a solicitor draw up an LPA.
Caroline Bielanska of Solicitors for the Elderly was interviewed for the piece and said: “The only way to ensure there are safeguards is to include appropriate clauses and that’s best done by a legal professional.”
LPAs are extremely powerful and complex documents, giving an individual the power to take control of someone else’s bank account, care arrangements and property. Unfortunately it is sometimes the case that individuals push to get power of attorney. As a trained solicitor and Solicitors for the Elderly member it is my role to delve deeper and ask the right questions to gauge the suitability of their proposed attorney. A good lawyer will also draw up an LPA in such a way to ensure it reflects your individual needs, wants and circumstances.
As the ITV Tonight show so clearly demonstrated: Lasting Power of Attorney works well in the majority of cases, but in the wrong hands it can have disastrous consequences.
To discuss LPAs, or any estate planning issues, please contact the team on 0800 328 3282 or email@example.com.