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Forrest Gump and the Lasting Power of Attorney

View profile for Susan Howarth
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If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know the words: "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get".

How true that is - good or bad, none of us really know what’s around the corner.

We look forward to the good and often try not to think about the bad. But the bad does happen; to anyone, at any age, anywhere and at any time – no one is exempt.

And this is precisely why a turnaround on our understanding and perspective of a Lasting Power Of Attorney (LPA) is needed.

Consider Hammond, Schumacher, Stone and Tarrant

Four ‘young, fit and healthy’ celebrities’, in their ‘prime’; four shocking, unforeseen and unexpected life-threatening scenarios with devastating consequences - mental and/or physical incapacity can hit at any time:

  • Richard Hammond: major TV Presenter and father-of-two, involved in TWO serious car accidents over the last decade, the first of which resulted in a coma with life-threatening head injuries and brain damage, afterwhich he experienced related depression, paranoia and memory loss;
  • Michael Schumacher: motor sport icon and father-of-two, was 44 years old when he was involved in a serious skiing accident resulting in a coma and suffering life-threatening and life-changing head injuries still to this day;
  • Sharon Stone: famous actress and mother-of-three, was 41 years old when she suffered a stroke - massive brain haemorrhage which saw her hospitalised, after which she spent 2 years learning to read, write, walk, talk and remember again;
  • Chris Tarrant: TV presenter and father-of-four, was 67 years-old when he suffered a stroke mid-flight resulting in emergency surgery, intensive clot-busting treatment and ongoing physiotherapy to help regain movement and speech.

Brain Injury and Stroke: The Facts

And in addition to these celebrity examples, the very real statistics speak loud and clear:

  • every 90 seconds someone is admitted to hospital in the UK with a brain injury, with traffic or contact-sport accidents being key examples of what can cause it. 
  • Stroke is now the second single most common cause of death in the world, with the number of people having strokes aged 20 to 64 having increased by 25%

Furthermore, these horrific instances often don’t result in loss of life but in long-term disability, illness and/or loss of mental capacity, the implications of which are enormous.

Makes for some uncomfortable reading, doesn’t it?

Time to stop and think

So, what would happen to you in such a situation?

Who would be legally able to manage your health, welfare, property and finances?

Who would have the legal authority to access your accounts, pay bills e.g. your mortgage, manage your savings, buy or sell property? Who would have the authority to decide what you should eat, where you should receive medical care and what type of medical treatment you should have?

The reality is there is no automatic right for your relatives or loved ones to deal with your property and bank accounts. But there is a way to plan ahead and ‘award’ them such a right in advance – by setting up an LPA.

The LPA

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you nominate and allow someone (the ‘attorney’) to make decisions for you, or act on your behalf, if you have lost mental capacity (as outlined in The Mental Capacity Act 2005) or you no longer wish to.

There are two types of LPA:

-        a Property and Financial LPA, which can be used whilst you still have mental capacity or after you have lost mental capacity; and

-        a Health & Welfare LPA, which only comes into effect once you have lost mental capacity.

When setting up your LPA/s, you have many options to shape and tailor how you wish it to work and the extent of the powers you wish to award.

LPAs aren’t just for the old, grey wrinklies – if anything, they’re an absolute must for the young fit and healthy brigade too.

What happens in the absence of an LPA?

Without an LPA in place, should you become mentally incapacitated, relatives (not necessarily of your choice) will have to go through the process of applying to the court of protection to get access and take control of your assets and finances - this can be both expensive and extremely time-consuming, not to mention the additional stress and hardship this can cause loved ones at an already difficult time.

Simply sensible life planning

Forrest Gump also says ‘Stupid is as stupid does’ which we think is a bit harsh!

But the truth is, setting up an LPA gives both you and your loved ones’ peace of mind that, should the worst happen, they’ll have the ability to make the right decisions for you – it’s simply sensible life planning.

At SH&Co. we’re here to help - why not pop in to one of our FREE Wills & Probate drop-in clinics for more information on LPAs or advice on setting one up. Or contact our Wills & Probate Department on 01606 48777.

This article has been written for your general information only and is not a detailed statement of the law. It should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice. If you require specific legal advice please do not hesitate to contact us on 01606 48777.

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