Lasting Powers of Attorney

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By Nino Cuffaro

Breakfast telly, nurses, COVID and Lasting Powers of Attorney. The last seven words I use fairly regularly in a sentence. The first two, not so often. It’s not that I don’t ever watch breakfast telly, I might catch a minute or so when downing my morning espresso, and to be fair it’s usually only the news ticker I’m reading across the screen, interspersed with the most important headlines of the day. Alarmingly, that might involve how many insects someone ate on I’m a Celebrity at the moment, but that’s another story and yet another programme I never watch.

I certainly wouldn’t be able to name any of the breakfast telly presenters. Until now that is. I am proud to say that my popular culture just became a little more, well, cultured. But it wasn’t as a result of watching telly. It’s because my phone has been ringing off the hook with new enquiries about making a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Usually, when someone instructs me, I ask what prompted them to get in touch. The last few weeks have seen a bit of a common theme and it involves Kate Garraway and a nurse. Now before anyone starts running to the newspapers with that story, I want to make it clear that I haven’t just spilled the beans on a secret affair between Garraway and a nurse. The common theme is that neither of them have a Lasting Power of Attorney. How did that hit the headlines and what’s it got to do with me? Let me explain.

Many of you will no doubt know who Garraway is and, if so, have heard about her husband battling with COVID. So much so that he has been rendered unable to make decisions for himself. It turns out that Garraway’s husband has “a lot” of bank accounts and insurances in his sole name. Despite being married to each other, Mrs Garraway can’t access any of it. As a consequence, she finds herself in what she describes as, a “financial mess”.

Yes, you read correctly, she cannot access his bank accounts. Why that surprises anyone is lost on me. Isn’t that why people have separate bank accounts, so that the other person can’t get their grubby mitts on it? The fact therefore that you can’t access it when that person loses capacity ought to be obvious. What may be a surprise is that a bank could even freeze a joint account if one of the account holders loses capacity. After all, how do they know what amount belongs to who?

What could the Garraway’s have done to avoid this unfortunate hoo ha? Appointed each other as attorneys by making a Lasting Power of Attorney.

As if that story isn’t startling enough, enter the nurse. Arrested when she tried to take her own mother out of a care home. Not only was she arrested, she was cuffed and detained in the back of a police car. Nope, she wasn’t trying to nick the bed linen, just take her mum out for a stroll. The home wanted to make sure she had permission, and it turns out she didn’t. Mum had lost capacity, and you’ve guessed it, to make any kind of decision, including going out for a walk, you will need a Lasting Power of Attorney.

Once all the pearl clutching is done, and let’s assume both Garraway and the nurse had their loved one’s best interests at heart. But let me ask you to imagine, what if they didn’t? You’d surely all be saying, thank God the law about Lasting Powers of Attorney is there to protect us. And you’d be right.

Anyone still thinking you’re too young to make a Lasting Power of Attorney or that it won’t happen to you, go back to the top and read this article again. Everyone else, get on the phone to a firm of solicitors and ask for someone experienced specifically in this area of law.  

The information provided in this post is not intended to constitute legal advice. Always seek advice from a suitably qualified person.