Is living longer really the Holy Grail?
Despite the recent news that, having peaked in 2010, the rise in life expectancy has finally ground to a halt, most of us can reasonably expect to live well into our 70s and 80s, a good 10 years longer than 50 years ago.
With increased longevity, however, invariably comes the higher risk of living with age-related illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and dementia. Figures reported by the BBC suggest that by the age of 65, most people will have at least one of these illnesses. By 75 they will have two.
Even more of a priority, therefore, is to ensure that while we’re still healthy, we grant relatives the powers to manage our lives in case we lose the capacity to do so, advises Nicola Waldman, private client solicitor at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen.
Nicola says: “Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows you to appoint a person (or people) to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types, one relates to property and finances, the other to health and welfare.”
Financial and property LPA
A financial and property LPA can include buying or selling property, managing bank, building society and other financial accounts, handling welfare benefits or tax credits, tax affairs, debts and legal proceedings. If you run your own business, it’s possible to make two LPAs for Property and Financial Affairs – one covering your personal finances and one covering your business affairs if you chose different people.
Nicola explains: “Your appointed property and affairs attorney can manage your property and finances even while you still have mental capacity to do so, perhaps if you have mobility issues, difficulties using the telephone, or you spend a lot of time abroad.
“As part of the LPA process, you can include suitable restrictions and preferences to ensure that your wishes are followed or to give guidance to your attorneys, such as preventing the sale of your home unless doctors believe you are no longer able to live independently.
“While attorneys are obligated to adhere to any restrictions, your preferences are not legally binding. They will however help your attorney by giving them clarity on, for example, the kind of shares your money is invested in, annual donations to charity or the level of funds you would like to retain in your current account.”
Health and Welfare LPA
A health and welfare LPA gives your attorney the right to make decisions such as giving or refusing consent to particular types of healthcare, including medical treatment, or deciding to live in your own home, perhaps with support from social services, or in residential care. You can also give your attorney the power to make decisions about your day-to-day welfare, such as your diet, dress, or your daily routine.
“You may want to clarify your wishes about end of life care, which you can do in an Advance Decision (AD), often called a living will. Not to be mistaken with an Advance Statement, which allows you to set out your health and care wishes, but unlike an AD, is not binding,” says Nicola.
“The AD sets out in more detail the circumstances where you wish your attorney to exercise the power to withdraw life sustaining treatment and thus allow you to die and are perhaps more accurately described as a decision to refuse treatment in certain circumstances. In this way, they are more limited than an LPA for health and welfare.
“You can use the AD to ensure you do not undergo treatments that will keep you alive longer when you are in a lot of pain or have a very limited quality of life. However, this is not the same as asking someone to end your life or to help you end your life, as assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal under English law.
“There is no set form for an AD but there are certain requirements you must follow to ensure that it is valid and binding. You can, if you wish, outline specific medical conditions where you would want treatment to be stopped, for example, refusing to be resuscitated in the event of cardiac arrest, refusing assisted ventilation if you cannot breathe yourself or refusing artificial feeding if you are unable to swallow safely.”
Clarifying your wishes about the care you would like to receive if you can no longer make decisions avoids speculation about who is responsible for making decisions. Once made, an LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.
For further information, please contact:
Kerry Jack or Nicola Pearson at Black Letter Communications on 020 3567 1208 or at
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com