Carers often worry about the future and what it holds. This is particularly the case for parent carers who may worry about how their sons and daughters will manage financially when they are no longer around to support them.
These concerns have grown in recent years partly because, as life expectancy increases, many people who did not expect their children to outlive them now find themselves facing that reality.
Common questions asked by families include:
• How will my son or daughter manage their money when I am no longer around?
• What will happen to my son or daughter’s benefits if they inherit money?
• How can I make sure my son or daughter is not taken advantage of by someone who knows about their inheritance?
• Will the social work department be able to use my son or daughter’s inheritance to pay towards the cost of care?
• What will happen if there are no other family members who can help?
• Will my son or daughter be able to stay in the family home?
Some of these questions may be solved by using wills and trusts. To find out more about this you could follow these links:
National Autistic Society for their free guide to wills and trusts, or ring 0808 800 4104
Mencap for a guide to wills and trusts, or ring 0808 808 1111
Rethink Mental Illness or ring 0300 5000 9237
Lasting Powers of Attorney
If you’re caring for someone suffering from a long-term condition, there may come a time when you will need to make decisions on their behalf and it may be helpful to discuss power of attorney. A Power of Attorney gives someone legal authority to act and speak for you. The person giving the authority is called the Donor and the person receiving the authority is the Attorney.
Do you need a Power of Attorney?
Another way of looking at it is “if the person I care for loses their ability to manage their own affairs, could I manage their affairs for them without anything extra in place?” So if the only thing needing to be managed is a joint bank account which you can access on your own then you may feel that a Power of Attorney would not add anything useful.
On the other hand, if the person you care for has various accounts or shares or other assets in their name alone and you might need to access them to pay for care costs or home maintenance, or if you may need to sell property belonging to them, then you should be thinking of a Lasting Power of Attorney (Property and Financial Affairs) to make it possible for you to use these assets in the future.
There is a second type of Lasting Power of Attorney which is concerned with welfare decisions such as where someone should live and be cared for and decisions about medical treatment. You may want to consider a Lasting Power of Attorney (Health and Welfare) if you anticipate any potential conflict in decisions about care or the person has strongly held views about certain medical interventions.
The Donor must have “mental capacity” at the time they make the Power of Attorney. This means that they understand what they are doing and can make a decision about who should be their Attorney. A Lasting Power of Attorney lasts even if the person later loses mental capacity. Mental capacity is confirmed at the time the Power is made, by someone who knows the Donor and who agrees to be the “certificate provider” to confirm that they understand what they are doing. If the person does not have the ability to understand and make a decision about a Power of Attorney then they cannot make one.
Once Lasting Powers of Attorney are registered, banks and other bodies should allow the Attorney to act in place of the Donor. We never know what is round the corner and it is wise to name more than one Attorney in case the first one is no longer able to act for some reason.
How do you go about it?
• You can go to a solicitor who will draw up the documents, supervise the signing and certification and then pay the fee and register it with the Office of the Public Guardian. They will charge for this service. If you need advice about inheritance, wills, trusts, tax planning and other property matters in conjunction with a Power of Attorney, then it is probably wise to use professionals. Also you may feel you want the reassurance that things have been done properly and to have the benefit of the professional’s insurance policy if things go wrong.
• You can use Will Writing services backed by the Society of Will Writers who are trained to deal with Wills, Estate Planning, Powers of Attorney etc. Again there will be a charge and they will be covered by professional indemnity insurance. Put “Will Writing” and your area into Google or look them up in the Yellow Pages.
• If you feel confident about doing it yourself then you can buy a Power of Attorney Pack from stationers, order them from the Office of the Public Guardian 0300 456 0300 or download the forms and guidance from the Justice Department website. You then register the forms with the Office of the Public Guardian and pay the fee which is reduced for those on a low income.
For more advice and support about planning for the future contact us on 01384 818723