Making sure appropriate Lasting Powers of Attorney are in place

By Philip Williams, Partner at Harrowells Solicitors

Last year, Harrowells advised more people than ever on Lasting Powers of Attorney. Why was that? We believe the pandemic underlined the peace of mind that organising your affairs can bring. This is particularly true in farming, where family and business life are heavily intertwined.

In a nutshell, Lasting Powers of Attorney allow you to choose trusted individuals to look after your personal and business affairs if you are unable to do so yourself. If you don’t sort out Lasting Powers of Attorney and you then lose mental capacity through dementia or otherwise, it may mean the local authority or other agencies may make decisions on your behalf.

Not having Lasting Powers of Attorney may also cost you more in the long-run. I advise clients that they are a little like insurance...we would all prefer not to pay for insurance, but the consequences of not having the insurance in place make the time and money spent on insurance good value.

Clients often ask if they can ‘put off’ Lasting Powers of Attorney until they get older. This can be risky as the documents cannot be put in place if you have already lost the capacity

You have a lot of flexibility in how your Lasting Power is framed. For example, you can choose that the Lasting Power of Attorney only comes into effect if you are ill or lack capacity. In this latter situation, if you recover, for example after a serious illness, you can then assume sole control of your affairs once again.

You need different types of Lasting Power of Attorney to cover off different aspects of your life. Lasting Powers of Attorney for ‘property and financial’ affairs, cover aspects such as paying bills and moving money between bank accounts. You can now arrange a second type of ‘health and welfare’ Lasting Power of Attorney that gives your family attorneys the authority to speak on your behalf about being cared for at home or choosing the most appropriate care home for you.

Farming families also need to consider whether to have a separate Lasting Power of Attorney specifically for the farming business. The attorneys who you appoint to make decisions about the running of the farm may not necessarily neatly overlap with those you would appoint for your personal care or aspects of your finances that sit outside the farm business.

There can be an understandable reluctance to discuss Lasting Powers of Attorney but, in my experience, you can derive great comfort and peace of mind from knowing that ‘all is in order’ and your family will not be faced with practical difficulties, particularly in relation to running the farming business if you become too poorly to work in the future.