A year or so ago Mr and Mrs Smith came to see me to enquire about a Lasting Power of Attorney.
Mr Smith was sadly suffering from early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and as a result of her husband’s ill health, Mrs Smith had given up work to look after him. Following a drastic fall in their monthly income, their home had become far too expensive to run and Mrs Smith now wanted to downsize. However, the property was in their joint names. She wanted me to put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney, made by her husband in her favour, which would have given her full authority to sell.
Mrs Smith asked me to talk to her husband about the Lasting Power of Attorney. She explained that he had ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’ and she was hopeful that I would catch him on a ‘good day’. Despite meeting Mr Smith on three separate occasions to try to catch him at ‘his best’, he was not well enough to comprehend the issues and I formed the conclusion that he did not have the mental capacity to understand the document. Therefore, I could not take his instructions and was unable to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.
Mrs Smith wanted to know their options. She wondered whether she would be able to proceed with the sale on her own as her name was clearly on the deeds. Unfortunately, this was not possible. I explained that there were two options: either stay in the property with the financial pressures it would bring OR apply for a ‘Deputyship’ Court Order which would allow Mrs Smith to have control of her husband’s finances. I warned her that the process could take up to a year and there would be significant costs involved. There would be an initial Court fee of £365 followed by further Court fees, fixed legal costs of at least £1020 and an insurance premium that she would need to pay annually whilst acting as Deputy.
Mr and Mrs Smith came to see me too late and Mrs Smith had no choice but to apply for Deputyship. It was the last thing she wanted to have to deal with whilst coming to terms with her husband’s illness and taking care of him 24 hours a day. The deputyship order took eight months to come through and the couple suffered financially through paying the various application costs and the additional property costs that they had to pay due to the sale being delayed.
This could have been avoided if a Lasting Power of Attorney had been completed at the outset
My view is that anyone over the age of 18 should have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place; certainly in relation to their property and financial affairs, if not their personal welfare as well. Think of it as an insurance policy. A small investment now could save you so much money and time later on.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Please don’t leave it until it’s too late.