What is a lasting power of attorney?
In general, decisions about your health and social care can be taken by the professionals looking after you. Your relatives will usually be able to look after your best interests when it comes to general decisions about your daily living.
However, there may be circumstances when you feel it would be best to appoint someone you trust on an official basis to take these decisions for you. This is done by completing and registering a lasting power of attorney (LPA) form. This is a legal document in which you ('the donor') appoint one or more people ('the attorney(s)') to take decisions for you.
An LPA differs from an ordinary power of attorney (OPA) in that it is intended for people who are likely to lose their mental capacity. An OPA is most commonly used by people who have a physical illness and want someone to look after their financial affairs.
An LPA can be drawn up to cover decisions about your health and welfare. If you want to appoint someone to take decisions about your finances and property, this will require a separate LPA. You can have both types of LPA drawn up if you wish.
Typical decisions you may allow a person with a health and welfare LPA to take include:
- Your daily diet
- What medical treatment you receive
- Whether you should go into a care home
You need to be 18 or over in order to make a LPA. You also need to be able to make your own decisions at the time the LPA is drawn up.
Your attorney can be a family member, an acquaintance or a professional (for example, a solicitor). When choosing an attorney think about how well you know them and how much you trust them. How well do they look after their own affairs? Would they be happy to accept the responsibility?
You cannot appoint someone who is under 18 or who is unable to make their own decisions.
You do not need to involve a solicitor in completing the forms although some people prefer to do so. You can fill in the forms on the internet, download and print them out or get them sent to you in the post. You can get further information and download the forms from the GOV.UK website (see below).
Once you have completed the forms you need to register them with the Office of the Public Guardian (see below). A fee is payable (currently £110, reductions available in certain circumstances). You do not need to register the LPA straight away but you should do so well before it is needed. Your appointed attorney(s) can register on your behalf at any time. However, if you feel that the registration is not in your best interests at the time and you have mental capacity, you can object to this.
Further reading and references
Menon S; The mental capacity act: implications for patients and doctors faced with difficult choices. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2013 Apr42(4):200-2.
Advance decision (Living wills); Alzheimer's Society
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Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.