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Good neighbours and powers of attorney

Portrait Of Grandparents Rea

Portrait Of Grandparents with their GrandchildrenGiving your neighbour’s child £10 to run to the corner shop for the Sunday papers, a pint of milk and a loaf of bread would on the surface seem trivial and something that anyone of us would do if it so happened that we couldn’t go to the shop on that day.  However, the reliance on others for what is often taken for granted is the everyday reality for a growing proportion of our society.

What if you could not make it to the door to give that £10 to the neighbour’s child?  What if you did not have the ability to deal with your own financial matters.  Under these circumstances, the people trying to help you would find it difficult to do so as the various organisations with whom you deal are unlikely to entertain any efforts to assist with your matters.  Quite rightly, they will be concerned about fraud and would also be concerned about disclosing personal information to the people who are trying to help.

General powers of attorney giving someone you trust the authority to deal with your property and financial matters are effective in situations where you have got mental capacity. They cease to be effective once capacity is lost.  The most reliable way of ensuring that the reins of your financial affairs can be taken over should you be unable to deal with matters on your own is to appoint someone you trust to deal with these matters on your behalf.  This can be done using a lasting power of attorney which is a form of power of attorney which is not rendered unusable should you lose mental capacity.

Many people would say that they do not yet need such a document and will only put one in place if the need arises.  Unfortunately, in many cases this will be too late.  At that stage, the only means of obtaining the authority to deal with the affairs of the person who has lost capacity would be application to Court. The emotional and financial costs far exceed the initial cost of putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney which although may appear daunting is far more cost effective than making an application to Court.

By Christine Dyson of the Wills, Trusts & Estates team at Cambridge solicitors Barr Ellison

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