Getting help with managing your affairs

People who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 and are therefore still reluctant to leave their homes, or people who feel too unwell to deal with their affairs, may find themselves in need of some help at this time.

Even if you are not in a high risk group, it is sensible to consider what might happen should you fall ill. Many people we meet are surprised to discover that their spouse, civil partner or cohabitee will not automatically be able to speak to banks and other institutions on their behalf. In fact, banks will often freeze joint accounts if they become aware that one of the account holders is unable to make decisions for themselves.

There are various ways to give people the power to help you.

Option 1: Lasting Powers Of Attorney

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA): one concerning finance decisions and one concerning health and care decisions.

Finance LPAs cover decisions relating to your financial affairs and property. They can be used by the people you choose to help you (your “attorneys”) as soon as they are registered, with your permission. If you should lose mental capacity, your chosen Attorneys can then continue to use the LPA to help you manage your affairs. They will try to involve you with decisions as far as possible.

In our view, Lasting Powers of Attorney are the preferable way to get help from another person with managing your finances, in contrast with other options. An LPA gives you a great deal of control over how your attorneys may act for you, and allows you to restrict what they can do. Nowadays Finance LPAs are widely understood and accepted by most high street banks.  Further, an LPA will still be effective if you lose capacity. This is not true of the other options.

LPAs do take some time to draft and register, so it’s important to get started as quickly as possible. Once drafted, you (the “donor”) and each attorney must sign the document which must then be signed by your ‘Certificate Provider’. The Certificate Provider is a professional person, such as one of our solicitors, who confirms that you understand what you are doing in making the LPA and nobody is forcing you to make it. If you are worried about a face-to-face appointment because of the Covid-19 outbreak, we have a range of options for dealing with this part of the process – see our Direct Appointments page.

Once the document is fully completed and signed, it will be sent off for registration with the Office of the Public Guardian. This can take some time, so don’t delay in starting the process.

Option 2: Third party mandate

All banks have their own procedures and rules on getting help with running your account. Some will suggest that you complete a ‘third party’ mandate to grant someone this type of access. However, as noted above, that this can only be used by your attorney while you have mental capacity. It is also only useful for helping to manage a bank account and does not grant power in relation to other financial matters, such as paying bills. It is therefore a temporary solution that ideally should be replaced with a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Each bank has their own version of the mandate. The following are links to third party mandate guidance for the biggest UK banks and building societies:

With a third party mandate, another person can operate your account. You should therefore only grant this power to someone you trust completely.

Note that banks generally require you to register Third Party Mandates with them. This includes completing a form (available in most cases online using the above links) and visiting the branch with your attorney who must take two forms of ID. If this is not possible because you are vulnerable to Covid-19, contact your individual bank for details of the alternative arrangements they have made.

Option 3: Ordinary Power of Attorney

Example Ordinary Power of Attorney

Above: Example Ordinary Power of Attorney

An Ordinary Power of Attorney (OPA) is a fairly simple document which allows one or more person, known as your attorney(s), to make financial decisions on your behalf. It’s only valid while you still have the mental capacity to make your own decisions. For those finding it harder to get out and about to the bank or post office, it therefore may be an acceptable temporary option and it is likely to be recognised if it is drawn up by a solicitor. Ideally, however, it should be replaced with a Lasting Power of Attorney.

An OPA can be general – giving your attorney the power to do anything that can be done as an attorney. Alternatively you can limit the power you give your attorney so that they can only deal with certain assets.

An OPA grants very wide powers. As with any type of Power of Attorney, you should only choose someone who you fully trust to manage your affairs.

If you are only looking for help with your bank account, a third party mandate may be a better option as it limits the power given to that one task.

Note that banks generally require you to register Ordinary Power of Attorneys with them. This includes completing a form (available in most cases online) and visiting the branch with your attorney who must take two forms of ID. If this is not possible because you are Covid-19 vulnerable, contact your individual bank for advice.

Advance Decision

An Advance Decision is another document you may want to consider making, if you are drawing up Lasting Powers of Attorney.

An Advance Decision allows you to specify treatments that you don’t want to have in the future, in case you later become unable to communicate decisions for yourself at the relevant time.

It will only be used if you can’t communicate a decision for yourself.

The legal name for this document is an “Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment” but it’s often referred to as a “Living Will” or an “Advance Directive”.

Advance Decisions are legally binding documents in England and Wales, provided that they meet certain requirements. If a healthcare professional knows that you have made an Advance Decision, they must follow it. If they ignore what you have written in your Advance Decision, they could be taken to court.

The easiest way to make an Advance Decision is to use the free template on the Compassion in Dying website. You can download it by clicking here.

You can make both an Advance Decision and a ‘Health and Care’ Lasting Power of Attorney. The latter gives someone the power to make decisions for you in relation to your care and welfare. You just need to make sure that the documents do not conflict with each other.

Appointees

You can assist someone who is struggling to manage benefits themselves by becoming an appointee. Appointees can:

  • sign benefit claim forms;
  • tell the benefit office about any changes which affect how much the claimant gets;
  • spend the benefit (which is paid directly to the appointee) in the claimant’s best interests; and
  • tell the benefit office if you stop being the appointee (for example the claimant can now manage their own affairs).

The process to become an appointee depends on the type of benefit being claimed. You can find out more here: Become an Appointee.

Next steps

We offer a one hour free appointment to discuss making a Lasting Power of Attorney and/or Will, without any obligation. You’ll find our lawyers friendly and easy to speak to, allowing you to discuss your goals and concerns in a relaxed environment. As noted above, we also have various options for those who do not want a face-to-face meeting. Call our friendly team on 0800 788 0500 to find out more.

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