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When I’m talking to clients about Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) for Health and Welfare – I often compare it to an insurance policy.
There is an insurance product for almost anything you can think of.
There are the big ones that most people have in place – house insurance, car insurance, life insurance.
Then there are the smaller ones, like travel insurance, or ‘gadget’ cover.
The idea for most of these is to provide a cash payment for when something happens – such as a flood, or a stolen car, or lost luggage. It also tends to make life MUCH easier in those circumstances.
When putting in place these policies – we all are hoping that it won’t come to having to make a claim – no one wants to have to deal with a burst pipe and a flooded kitchen!
But it’s a lot easier to sort out if your house is insured, than dealing with a flood when it’s not.
What about the Lasting Powers of Attorney?
So LPAs are not insurance policies – they are legal documents that allow someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf. There are 2 types. One for Property and Finance, and one for Health and Welfare decisions.
Most people tend to be aware of the Property LPA – and can see the immediate advantage – it’s handy to know that your loved ones could easily deal with your property sale or pay your bills on your behalf if you ever couldn’t.
However, people often overlook the Health and Welfare LPA – which allows your attorneys to make decisions about your medical treatment, and other ‘softer’ wellbeing decisions – as they cannot foresee it being necessary.
It can only be used by your attorneys if you ever lost mental capacity, which is not something many people envisage happening to them – though in reality it affects large numbers of people.
The decisions that could be made include (but are not limited to):
When is it useful?
It’s difficult to say when – or even if – this LPA will be useful. If you live your entire life with the capacity to make these decisions for yourself, then that’s what you will do. Which is absolutely how it should be.
However – given that none of us have yet mastered the art of fortune telling – the usefulness of a Health and Welfare LPA may come as a bit of a surprise. You might lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself all of a sudden. Following an accident, or a stroke for instance.
Of course, some medical conditions (such as the different types of dementia etc) mean that you may be able to predict some impact on your decision making ability. If diagnosed early enough, I would encourage you (if you haven’t already done so) to put in place an LPA for Health and Welfare.
Having one in place means that, when the difficult decisions need to be made, the people you trust the most are making them for you – rather than strangers who don’t know you, and don’t know what you would want.
Why is it like insurance?
A LPA for Health and Welfare cannot be used while you have mental capacity.
If you never ‘lose’ mental capacity – then you may live you entire life never having to call upon it.
As such – a bit like insurance – you or your family might never need to rely on it to help make those difficult decisions in your hour of need.
Like insurance – you put it in place while everything is fine – in the hope that you won’t one day need to use it.
But also like insurance – if something unexpected ever does happen in the future – it’s a whole lot easier for your family to deal with those decisions if it is in place than if it isn’t.
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