What’s more important than a will? Lasting Power of Attorney, I'd say.
One person develops dementia every three minutes. Many others lose their faculties via strokes, accidents and more.
The emotional challenges this puts on you and your family are substantial, and a lack of financial preparation exacerbates this.
That’s why I am a passionate believer that every grown up with assets should look at getting a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
In many ways I consider this to be more important than a will.
Die will-less and you don’t choose where your assets go – that’s not good (for full help on doing a good will cheaply see www.mse.me/wills).
Yet if you lose your faculties without a LPA, your assets could be locked down – even stopping your family paying for your care.
This isn’t an age thing either. I’m 44 and I have one, even though to the best of my knowledge, I have no foreseeable issues.
Yet, when I’ve polled on this less than one in six others have one, so I make no apology for pushing this, especially as now the cost has dropped.
It’s worth remembering people can lose their faculties very quickly. And when their family are already having to come to terms and deal with that – without a LPA, the only way they can take charge of your finances is via the Court of Protection, which people often say is a nightmare.
So here’s my key LPA facts…
* You stay in control. With a Lasting Power of Attorney you nominate a trusted friend or relative to take control of your assets, but ONLY if and when you lose capacity. It’s a bit like an insurance policy in case the worst happens. However it needs to be set up when you have mental capacity, so thinking, “that’s not for us to worry about now” is a mistake – once you know there’s an issue it may be too late.
* The cost has been cut to £82. To encourage more people to take this up, the cost of registering a LPA in England and Wales has recently been reduced from £110 to £82. In Scotland it’s £75 and in Northern Ireland £115. You can find the forms at www.gov.uk. However, those on some forms of benefits may be able to have the fee reduced or wiped.
* You can do it yourself, but if things are complex, get help. The gold standard way to do a LPA is to get a solicitor to draft one for you – worth considering if your affairs are complex, such as overseas property or business assets. It will typically cost around £500 – get a quote first. To find a solicitor you can use the Law Society Tool at solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk, or www.sfe.legal, is a network of over 1,000 solicitors specialising in issues affecting older people. However, those with simple affairs used to filling in forms carefully should be able to apply for a LPA without help.
Or a decent halfway house is to use www.which.co.uk legal service where you fill in a questionnaire, to generate the LPA form, then crucially it’s checked by a qualified paralegal. The standard charge for this from Which? is £139, but before 31 May via my site www.mse.me/LPA#whichdeal there’s a link to do it at half price (£79).
Of course as with solicitors, you’ll still need to pay the Government registration fee. If you need help but have a low income, little savings and are over 70, disabled, have a disabled child or are a single parent, you may be able to get help through the Civil Legal Advice scheme at www.gov.uk/civil-legaladvice. If not your local Citizens Advice office may be able to help.
* Sort future medical care and your (living) will too. For obvious reasons I’ve focused on the financial LPA, but you can also set up a health and welfare LPA to give loved ones authority over your treatment. You have to fill out a separate form for this and it will cost you a further £79 if you sign up before 31 May again via www.gov.uk.
** Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavingExpert.com.
To join the 12 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip