With coronavirus sweeping the globe and world leaders scrambling to put secure lockdown measures in place, here’s how to ensure your loved ones and their affairs are protected, now and in the future.
Over the past two months the virus known as coronavirus has spread to the far reaches of the world, infecting over 1.5 million people and causing thousands to be gravely ill. The ensuing reaction is something that has never been experienced before in the 21st century, and it has been likened to wartime. Countries have closed their borders, businesses have shut their doors and entire populations are staying in their homes.
Who is affected by the virus?
Whilst coronavirus does not discriminate and has infected people of all ages, it’s been clear from the beginning that the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to severe symptoms.
People over 70 in the UK have been given instructions not to leave their homes for a period of 12 weeks. Care homes have received special guidance from the government, who have advised them to follow social distancing measures, ask family members not to visit, ensure staff are diligent if symptoms
present in a resident or colleague, and if so to follow a strict process.
These measures should reduce the risk of infection, however hundreds of people are still presenting symptoms in the UK every day. Last month, 3 care homes had staff members test positive for the virus and in response closed their doors to visitors.
How can I protect my loved ones and myself?
The crisis has brought into sharp focus the need to plan ahead, and for many people this means getting their affairs in order and making sure that proper arrangements are in place. Our legal practice, Woolley, Beardsleys & Bosworth, has experienced a big increase in enquiries from people wanting to write or update their Will, and in our separate blog post you can watch an interview with Rebecca Abraham explaining how we are achieving this in the lockdown.
In the interview Rebecca mentions how important it is to also make sure that you have up-to-date Lasting Powers of Attorney, or LPAs, in place. It's clear that there are people of all ages who have suffered prolonged periods of illness as a result of the virus, and of course many of them go on to make a full recovery. It's also true that, during the period of illness life goes on, with bills needing to be paid, transactions needing to be settled, and decisions having to be made.
This isn't just an issue about the coronavirus. Every five minutes in the UK on average someone suffers from a stroke, another life-changing event that can instantly affect an individual's ability to live a normal life, and requiring an often lengthy rehabilitation period. This is just one of the many causes of incapacity in people of all ages. A Lasting Power of Attorney is the document that will enable your loved ones and carers to continue to manage your affairs, and you theirs, in such difficult circumstances.
The Two Types of LPA
The two types of LPA cover either Property and Financial Affairs or Personal Welfare. The two are completely separate, and if you have only one type of LPA, your attorneys will not have authority to make the sort of decisions permitted under the other type.
A Property and Financial Affairs LPA
A Property and Financial Affairs LPA gives your Attorney - the person or persons you choose to act for you - the authority to deal with your assets and investments, to manage your income and expenditure, to look after your pensions and taxes, and other financial matters of yours. They may also buy and sell property on your behalf.
Personal Welfare LPA
An Attorney appointed under a Personal Welfare LPA may make decisions relating to your healthcare and welfare, but only if you lack the capacity to make such decisions yourself. The decisions may include where you live, the care that you receive and aspects of your daily routine, such as your diet. You may also give your Attorneys the power to consent to or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf.
It is our understanding that many care homes now require residents to have a Personal Welfare LPA in place for all residents.
We've created a Factsheet to explain the main features of the different types of LPA, and what to look out for. You can download a copy here.
Why is it important to get an LPA in place?
Should you lose mental capacity or be unable to manage your financial affairs, someone, usually a family member or, if necessary, the Local Authority, will have to apply to the Court for a Deputyship Order which will permit them to make decisions on your behalf. This process is complex and lengthy, and can be expensive as ongoing annual fees apply. It may also be necessary for the Deputy to make further applications to the Court for permission to act in the sale of a property, for example.
By arranging your LPA now, you get to choose who you want to act for you, and you can give them guidance as to your wishes in advance. This might include what bills to pay, how to deal with your investments, or the type of care you would like in the event of life-threatening illness.
Our Attorney Service
Often people will ask members of their family to act as their Attorney, but if you don't have a suitable family member, or you'd prefer to appoint a professional to act for you, that's where we can help. Our Legal Team will arrange to become your Attorney and ensure the decisions you make come to pass, should you become unable to make them yourself. We can give you lots more information about our service on request.
What's the next step?
Here at Chesterton House and Woolley Beardsleys & Bosworth, many of our clients have been with us for decades, trusting us to manage and protect their welfare and assets. Dealing with us is easy, you can simply send us an enquiry, pick up the phone, or send us an email and we will arrange an initial chat with one of our Team.
Knowing that all of your affairs are in order is one more step on your journey to financial freedom. It's one we'll be delighted to help you make.
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