11 August 2021
The views of Lucy Watson, who heads the Wills and Probate Team at Phillips, about Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) have been reinforced through her personal experience as she explains in this article:
“I have lost count of how many times I have heard clients say that they hope they will end their days by dying in their sleep, having led a full and active life. Or they tell me that dementia doesn’t seem to run in their family.
But sadly, a lot of us will lose mental capacity in our latter years and if we face that as a possibility we can at least prepare as best we can for that fate. Failure to do so may cause our families enormous stress and worry, on top of the upsetting emotional impact of seeing a family member cease to be the person they knew and loved.
Last year I lost my parents to Covid19. They were both 90 but the loss has been devastating. Losing a parent is never easy whatever their age and the circumstances of the virus were awful.
As you would hope with a solicitor specialising in Wills, Probate and Powers of Attorney, I had encouraged my parents to make Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). They had made LPAs for property and financial affairs and for health and welfare and while doing so we took the opportunity to have the difficult discussion about life sustaining treatment. A health and welfare LPA can only be used when the donor has lost mental capacity. I knew my father’s capacity was starting to fade when he made his LPAs and so could envisage a time when I might need to act on it, but my mother was mentally fine and I doubted that this LPA would ever be needed for her.
However, with the health and welfare LPA the donor authorises attorneys to make decisions on his or her behalf when the donor is unable to make the decision in question through lack of capacity. You might not have dementia, just not have capacity at the vital time that a decision is needed.
So, it happened with my mother. She was unconscious in hospital and the outlook was poor. But the medical staff were suggesting they tried one more lot of treatment to see if she responded. As a family we were sure that my mother didn’t want to be ‘kept alive’ – we had had that discussion when making her LPA – and that she had had enough. So, after much discussion, we used the health LPA to refuse what could have been life sustaining treatment on her behalf. It wasn’t an easy decision and not one we were expecting to have to make. Were we playing God? It was very upsetting, but we felt and still feel sure we did what our mother would have wanted.
Health and welfare LPAs can be needed in unexpected circumstances and unexpected times. My personal experience has reinforced my advice to clients of the importance of making these LPAs and of using the process to properly think through and discuss your wishes with those close to you.”
If you would like to discuss setting up an LPA, please contact Lucy Watson, head of the Wills & Probate Team at Phillips, by calling 01256 854646 or by emailing [email protected] or by using our request a quote form.
This article is current at the date of publication set out above and is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.
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