Norwich solicitors offer power of attorney services to safeguard vulnerable adults
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The misconception that power of attorney services are only for the elderly is putting some young adults at risk. An increasing number of vulnerable adults are becoming the targets of fraud and have lost thousands of pounds. We spoke with Ashtons Legal partner Lynn Wicks to understand what can be done to protect those who could be at risk.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA): a legal document allowing a trusted individual to make decisions on your behalf. There are two kinds: property and financial, and health and welfare. The same person can be appointed for both.
Donor: the person who makes the LPA
Court of Protection: will make financial and welfare decisions for those with diminishing capacity that do not have an LPA
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Deputy: the person appointed by the Court of Protection to make financial or welfare decision on behalf of a vulnerable adult
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Protection for vulnerable adults
An individual with diminishing capacity is at risk of losing control over financial, health, welfare and legal decisions. They need additional support to help them. Any person, at any age, can be affected.
Long term illnesses like Alzheimer's or dementia can lead to fluctuation in capacity, as well as brain damage or trauma caused by an accident.
You must have the necessary metal capacity to appoint someone as your power of attorney and no one can nominate themselves for the role.
How is mental capacity assessed?
- A person must be able to understand, retain, weigh up and communicate their decisions in order to be recognised as having capacity
- Solicitors may consult medical professionals when considering someone's capacity to make a particular decision
- Capacity is time and decision specific - for example someone may be unable to make financial decisions but can decide where they live, or they may be better at making a decision at a specific time of day
- Loss of capacity can be long term or short term, and can fluctuate
Finding the right legal advice
It takes three months to register a power of attorney, which is why people should make these preparations ahead of time.
"It's like taking out an insurance policy. You hope you will not have to use it, but it's there in case the worst happens. It can make life much easier for you and your family," said Lynn.
Ashtons Legal work with vulnerable adults and the elderly to advise what documents and processes they need and how they can arrange these.
Taken out of the driving seat
If you lose capacity, without a financial power of attorney, your bank accounts will be frozen and no one, including your spouse, can access these.
This will not be rectified until a financial Deputy is appointed by the Court of Protection. This can take up to eight months and is expensive. If you lose capacity without a welfare power of attorney decision like where you live, or what medication you take will be passes to social services, carers or doctors.
"If you want your family in the driving seat to make these decisions for you, then it's worth making a lasting power of attorney," added Lynn.
Acting under a Lasting Power of Attorney
Most attorneys are family members. They must be over 18, never have been declared bankrupt and must be able to make their own legal decisions. It's good to appoint someone with relevant knowledge if possible. Most importantly, it should be someone you trust.
Acting as someone's attorney can be a time-consuming and difficult responsibility. Ashtons Legal can give professional advice to explain what duties an attorney has and help you navigate legal tangles.
"Often people want to fill this role for someone they love, for their spouse or their parents, but do not always know what they are doing, which can lead to confusion and mistakes that people cannot easily resolve," Lynn explained.
Where can I go?
Sometimes people can no longer make decisions for themselves. If you need additional support and protection it can be hard to know what is the right legal advice. A solicitor can help ensure all the proper safeguards and procedures are in place, no matter if it's for you, your child or someone else you love. Ashtons Legal has offices in Norwich, Ipswich and other East Anglian locations and is dedicated to finding the right help for you.
To make an appointment visit www.ashtonslegal.co.uk or call 0800 915 6037.