IN the North East, 87 percent of people are currently living with no control over important later-life decisions around their housing, assets, heath and care warns a leading wealth management solicitor.
Rebecca Harbron Gray, who heads up Wills Trust and Probate at Gordon Brown Law Firm, is urging those across the region without a lasting power of attorney (LPA) to act now to help safeguard their wishes in the event they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves due to an accident or illness such as dementia.
The warning follows a recent report by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), the national organisation representing legal professionals such as Rebecca from Gordon Brown Law Firm specialising in helping people plan for later life.
The report reveals that whilst 43 percent of people in North East England have a will in place to manage their affairs after death, only six percent have a LPA.
In the region, 84 percent would want a family member or friend to make important decisions on their behalf, in the event of illness or an accident. However, few are aware that without an LPA in place, an individual’s affairs, such as their end-of-life wishes and health treatments, can be left in the hands of third party solicitors, social workers, medical doctors or the British courts.
Rebecca, who is one of the region’s few Solicitors for the Elderly and was one of the region’s first ever Dementia Friends’ Champion, said: “Through a LPA you can appoint someone who you know and trust to look after your affairs should you ever be unable to look after them yourself.
“In the North East we have one of the lowest number of people with some form of LPA in place, however 84 percent of the region would prefer a loved one to be responsible for those all-important decisions should the worst happen.
“Ensuring that you have the right plans in place today for the future can offer real reassurance to both you and your family.
“Time and again we see people who are very aware of the importance of having a will in place, but have far less of an understanding of just how important a LPA can be. I would urge anyone, no matter their age, to find out more about how a LPA could benefit them.”
Even the minority of people that have taken steps to plan ahead for later life may still be at risk, due to poor quality legal advice and invalid documents as 14 percent of people in the North East with a LPA in place did not use an expert or seek legal guidance, instead taking a gamble using online resources, non-legal advisers, or off-the-shelf kits.
Lakshmi Turner, chief executive of SFE, added: “Most people assume that if they suffer an illness or accident, their next of kin will be responsible for vital decisions. The reality is starkly different – loved ones may not be able to make a decision on your behalf unless you have a LPA in place.
“An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have. If you have children, own a home, or have views on your preferred health treatment, we urge you to go to an expert to get the right advice.”
Fellow Gordon Brown Law Firm employee Laura Brydon, who also works within the Wills Trust and Probate team, is a student member of SFE having recently completed the Older Client Care in Practice Award (OCCP). Following the completion of her Older Client Law in Practice Module (OCLP) Laura will also become a Full Accredited Member of SFE.
SFE is an independent, national organisation of professionals, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, committed to providing the highest quality of legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers. To download the report ‘Who will decide for you when you can’t?’ visit www.sfe.legal.
For more information on appointing a lasting power of attorney contact Gordon Brown Law Firm on 0191 389 5116 or visitwww.gblf.co.uk.