Making decisions is part of everyday life; from where we go when we step out the front door to who comes to visit us in our homes. You rarely consider a time when these choices will be made for you, and yet, the measures implemented as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis have left us incapable of planning our next move.
During this time, it is crucial to focus on areas of your life which you can control and ensure that your future is in line with your wishes. Setting up a Power of Attorney is a fantastic tool which provides you with the power to act early and be in charge of what happens to you.
How can a Power of Attorney help during the crisis?
Firstly, it’s important to understand the different types of Power of Attorney available in England, what powers are exercised from each, and how they could give you temporary or permanent assistance during the coronavirus.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets you (the donor) appoint one or more representatives (the attorney) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. Depending on the kind of Power of Attorney you set up, the person you appoint as your attorney can help with your finances or your long-term health care plans.
I am self-isolating and need help quickly – what can I do?
During the pandemic, an Ordinary Power of Attorney (OPA) can be useful if you want someone to look after your finances temporarily. If you fall under the ‘high risk’ category and have to self-isolate, it may be worth speaking to loved ones about setting up an OPA. This would allow you to get the help you need in the interim.
However, you should be aware that an OPA only covers financial decisions and are only valid while you have mental capacity. Therefore, your appointed individual cannot help with decisions about your health should something happen to you and, if you lose capacity, the power granted with an OPA will be revoked.
The benefits of a Lasting Power of Attorney
If you are looking to protect yourself entirely and ensure decisions made about your life are based on what you want, a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is crucial. LPAs can cover health and welfare, finances, or both.
An action plan for adult social care was released in April 2020, highlighting the importance of LPAs during the crisis. With concern raised that advance care plans are currently being applied ‘in a blanket fashion’, the report stresses that this ‘must always be a personalised process’:
“Everyone at risk of losing mental capacity or nearing the end of their life should be offered the opportunity to develop advance care planning that makes their wishes clear, and make arrangements, such as Lasting Power of Attorney for health and social care decisions, to put their affairs in order.”
If you would like to ensure your wishes are followed in terms of your advanced care plan, get in touch today to discuss setting up an LPA.
What type of LPA do I need?
There are two kinds of LPAs in England; a health and welfare LPA, and property and financial affairs LPA.
Health and Welfare LPA
Health and welfare LPAs give your nominated individual the power to make decisions about your life, from life-sustaining treatment down to your daily routine. You should note that this will only be activated when the donor lacks capacity.
Property and financial affairs LPA
A property and financial affairs LPA allows your chosen person to make decisions about money and property on your behalf, for example, managing a bank account, paying bills, or selling your home. It can be used as soon as it’s registered, with your permission.
You can read more about the requirements of setting up a Power of Attorney in England by clicking here.
How do I set up an LPA and respect social distancing measures?
Signing and witnessing LPAs follows a very similar process as Wills. Under current laws, a Power of Attorney must be witnessed by two independent adults and, as of yet, this requirement has been given little leniency to account for the current circumstances.
If you are considering setting up an LPA during the lockdown, the process will need to be carefully planned to ensure you do not go against government guidelines of social distancing.
For LPAs to be valid, the document must be signed by:
- The donor
- The attorney(s)
- The witnesses
- A certificate provider (your solicitor)
The document will be signed by you first, and then passed on to the attorney. In light of the pandemic, all of this could take place via video conferencing facilities, with the LPA posted to your attorney who can have a family member as their witness.
Please note, your solicitor must be fully satisfied you are not being subjected to any pressure to sign an LPA and that you understand what powers you are bestowing by signing the document. If your lawyer confirms you made the LPA by choice, they will sign and move forward with registering the document.
How long will it take for my Power of Attorney to be activated?
An LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). While the OPG aims to register LPA applications within 40 working days, it expects this could take longer than normal as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are currently looking at the registration of LPAs and how to speed up the process.
In these unusual times, you must be prepared for all eventualities. To start setting up your Power of Attorney today, speak with one of our lawyers.
Get in touch with our Power of Attorney solicitors in London now
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights how easily our power to make decisions can be stripped from us at a moment’s notice. With the help of a Power of Attorney, you can ensure that your wishes are followed should you lose any kind of control in your future. Do not delay, get in touch with our Power of Attorney team today on 020 3962 0898 for continued support through this unprecedented time.
This guide does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only. If you require specific legal advice you should contact one of our lawyers who can advise you based on your own circumstances.
Please note this information is accurate as of 29/04/20 and is subject to change as official guidance is adapted to reflect the implications of the virus.