Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

Published on
2 min read

As we all adjust to the practical implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people may be considering what provisions they have in place to cover incapacity scenarios. Whilst many individuals may have a Lasting Power of Attorney (“LPA”) in place to cover their financial affairs, fewer people will have a power of attorney in place for health and welfare issues. In such times, they will become increasingly important.

What does a Health and Welfare LPA do?

Unlike a Financial and Property Affairs LPA, a Health and Welfare LPA can only be used when the donor (the person making the LPA) has lost mental capacity. It must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian to be effective, which ideally should be done well ahead of any mental capacity issues.

Such an LPA allows the appointed attorney(s) to make decisions on the donor’s behalf, including aspects of daily routine (washing, dressing etc), medical care, moving to a care home or end of life decisions. The donor must, in the LPA document, specify whether the attorney(s) should have the authority to accept or reject life-sustaining treatment.  Due to the powers given, the choice of who to appoint as attorney(s) is crucial.

Why put in place a Health and Welfare LPA?

As well as dealing with daily welfare tasks, an LPA can provide clarity for medical practitioners by allowing an attorney to make decisions on the donor’s health once the donor has lost capacity. However, the overriding principle for both attorneys and medical professionals will always be what is in the best interest of the donor. Without an LPA in place, it will either be left to doctors to make the decision which is in the best interest of the individual (which may involve a ‘best interest meeting’ between senior doctors), or family members will need to make an application to Court, which can be very expensive and time consuming.

As with all LPAs, more than one attorney can be appointed, and replacement attorneys can be selected to act only if the appointed attorney(s) are unable or unwilling to.

Practical examples

  • Liaising with care home staff to ensure the donor’s diet stays vegetarian as per their wishes.
  • Deciding whether the donor needs a vaccination.
  • Arranging a dental appointment.
  • Assisting with the decision about whether medical practitioners should implement procedures with a view to prolonging life.

In these uncertain times, now is the opportunity to think about planning for the future, in both the short and long term. Having a Health and Welfare LPA will provide peace of mind that, should the worst happen, the most important decisions about daily life and health will be in the hands of the chosen attorney(s).

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