10 FAQ’s for Attorneys Appointed Under a UK Lasting Power of Attorney

Lasting Powers of Attorney – The role of the ATTORNEY – UK

Have you been asked to be an Attorney and are you wondering what this really means? Are you concerned that you don’t know what to do?

This article explains your role and answers some key questions.

Lets start with what is expected of you as an Attorney.

FAQ’s

1. What does an Attorney have to do?

An Attorney is someone who has the authority to make decisions and act someone’s behalf.

So, you would be expected to make decisions and carry out tasks on behalf of the person who signed the Lasting Power of Attorney.

The following information should give you a good understanding of purpose of an LPA, but first, a little more background.

2. Who can be an Attorney?

Anyone over 18, you can be a friend or relative and people frequently ask their spouse to do it. Normally it is someone they trust and who knows them reasonably well. You can choose a professional attorney who will be paid for their service.

3. When do I actually have to do something? When do I become the attorney?

If the person with the LPA becomes too ill to look after their own affairs, then you as the attorney can start to make decisions and manage their affairs for them.

We call this losing capacity. You lose capacity if you are unable to make decisions.

4. How can I tell if someone has lost capacity?

Often medical staff will be the first to declare that someone has lost capacity. But you should still consider for yourself whether you think that they are able to make a decision. The law gives guidance on decision making:

  • Are they unable to understand information relevant to the decision?
  • Can they retain that information?
  • Can they weight that information as part of the process of making a decision?
  • Can they communicate it (whether by talking, using sign language or any other means)?

It may be that the incapacity is only temporary, but you may still be required to make decisions for them if they are incapacitated for a short time.

There is more information in Part 3 of the Mental Capacity Act Please bear in mind that the reason for the incapacity could be physical or mental, it could be due to accident, illness or for another reason. What is important is whether they are “incapacitated”.

If you are unsure, you must get further advice. Talk to medical professionals who are treating the person who made the LPA.

Please note that it does not matter if the person is making unwise or unexpected decisions, you may not agree with them but that doesn’t mean they lack capacity. Remember, you can only act when they are no longer able to make decisions.

As an attorney you should try to help the person who signed the LPA to make their own decisions if possible.

Useful information on the capacity to make decisions can be found in the Mental Capacity Act Part 3

5. What decisions can I make? What does “manage affairs” mean?

The first thing you should do is look at the LPA document. There are two types and you may be an attorney under one or both types of LPA.

  1. Lasting Power of Attorney – Health and Wellbeing or,
  2. Lasting Power of Attorney – Property and Financial Affairs.

If you are an Attorney under a Health and Wellbeing LPA you may be asked to make decisions about various aspects of the persons personal life. For example, you could be asked to make decisions on what medical treatment they receive or where they are to live, even what they eat and wear. You will only do this if the donor has lost the capacity (ability) to make the decisions for themselves.

If you are and Attorney under a Property and Financial Affairs LPA you can make decisions about money and property, you can pay bills, collect benefits and even sell the persons home for them. You can use authority this at any time, the person making the LPA does not need to have lost capacity.

6. Doesn’t this give me a lot of responsibility?

Yes, it does. You are in a very privileged position to help someone you care for. The LPA gives you the power to access someone else’s money and property and make intimate decisions over their personal lives.

However, you cannot abuse your position. You are legally obliged to always act in the persons Best Interests. This means you can only act on their behalf and you cannot make any decisions that aren’t in their best interests. You must also take reasonable care when making the decisions.

For guidance on what “best interests” means, you should look at Part 4 of the Mental Capacity Act.

Checklist:

  • Has the LPA been properly stamped by the Office of The Public Guardian? The LPA must have been completed and registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before you can do anything as an attorney.

Read through LPA document.

  • Look at any restrictions in the LPA has the person written anything in it? Look at page 6, section 5 of the LPA and make sure you comply with these restrictions. At section 6 the donor may have given the Attorneys guidance. This is does not have to be followed but should give you an idea of what the donor would have wanted if they still had capacity and it may help you decide what is in their best interests.
  • Does the document allow you to make decisions alone or do you have to make them with someone else “jointly”? You must make sure you comply with these directions. If it says “severally” this means that each attorney can act separately to the other attorney(s). Look at the LPA on page 5. You need to make sure that you can communicate with any other attorneys, especially where need to make decisions together.

Are you clear on your role and responsibilities? If not, have a look at chapters 4 and 5 of the Code of Practice of the Mental Capacity Act.

7. What happens if I have to spend my own money?

As a donor you are always entitled to claim your reasonable out-of-pocket expenses that you incur on their behalf. You should always keep a record and receipts for these expenses.

The donor may wish to pay a professional attorney for their services, in which case this will be detailed in the LPA on page 6 at section 7.

8. Do I have to be an Attorney?

No, you don’t. It is always better to tell someone that you don’t want to do it at the time they are making the LPA, so that they can choose someone else. If you withdraw later it can cause many problems and a lot of confusion.

9. Can I operate a bank account for the donor (person who signed the LPA)

Yes, you can if the LPA is a Property or Financial Affairs LPA. Always look at the guidance and restrictions in the document. Also make sure that you only use their money for their best interests.

If you are managing a bank account for someone else and finding the bank is not being helpful, then have a look for the “British Bankers Association Guidance for Consumers”. It gives guidance to you and the bank to help the attorney to access an account. You may wish to take it to the bank to remind them of their role.

10. Can I act on behalf of a parent, child or friend who has completed but not registered the Lasting Power of Attorney?

No, unfortunately it doesn’t matter how much you care for them or how much they would like you to help. It must be registered or you will not have the authority you need to conduct their affairs. In these circumstances you will unfortunately have to apply to the Court of Protection for the authority to act. They have to make a decision who should help and they usually place restrictions on the role of the attorney.