When people plan for their future treatment and care, not only do they have a better end of life experience, but they are given peace of mind in the present knowing that their wishes are documented and those caring for them will know what they want.
At Compassion in Dying we support people to plan for the end of life. We believe everyone has the right to plan ahead, not just those who can afford to. But currently, people are being taken advantage of at a time when what they really need is honest information and support.
A common problem we hear on our information line is people are charged large amounts by solicitors to make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare (LPA) – which allows you to give someone you trust the legal power to make decisions about your treatment and care. You can also set up a LPA for property and financial affairs. Unfortunately, many people think they have to use a solicitor to do this, but this isn’t true. So here are five key things to know about LPAs:
1. You don’t need to use a solicitor
The LPA process has been monetised by solicitors, and the media often perpetuates this by reporting false information -“it’s safest to ask a solicitor to explain the legal implications”. We also know that GPs are incorrectly telling people they need a solicitor to make an LPA, causing unnecessary financial barriers for those who want to plan ahead.
2. It doesn’t need to break the bank
It costs £82 to register an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian. And you can get money off this fee, or may not have to pay at all, if you are on certain benefits or earn under £12,000 a year.
The average cost to register an LPA through a solicitor is £384, but can range up to £2500. So people are often paying nearly five times more by using a solicitor when they don’t necessarily need to.
3. The form isn’t complicated
Completing forms is never fun, but you don’t need special training or a law degree to make an LPA. You can complete the form online or fill in a paper form by hand. There are clear instructions and if you have a question you can call the Office of the Public Guardian’s free helpline 0300 456 0300.
4. Solicitors don’t always get it right
Callers to our information line sometimes tell us a solicitor has completed the LPA incorrectly (which normally means you have to pay the registration fee again), or the solicitor hasn’t registered the LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian at all.
An LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian to be used. It should be registered while someone is well and still able to make decisions for themselves, in case there are any problems with the form that need to be corrected.
But we hear that common practice is for solicitors to hold on to the form, incorrectly thinking the LPA should be registered once the person becomes unwell. This can cause huge problems and may mean the LPA cannot be registered or used if there is a mistake within it.
5. There are other options
You can use an Advance Statement to tell people about your health needs and care preferences (like where you would like to be cared for). And you can use an Advance Decision to refuse medical treatments in advance, in case a time comes when you are unable to make a decision for yourself.
Plan while you can
Planning ahead is important, it lets you record what you do and don’t want in case you can’t tell people in the future. There are organisations, such as Compassion in Dying, who can help you to do this for free.
If you would like more information about planning ahead, or would like us to send you a free Advance Decision or Advance Statement, call Compassion in Dying’s free information line 0800 999 2434.
Jennifer Noel is the Information and Partnerships Lead at Compassion in Dying.
Have you been affected by any of these issues?
If you have been affected by any of the issues described in this blog, or simply need someone to reach out to, you can contact to Compassion in Dying on their free information line 0800 999 2434, Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm, or visit their website https://compassionindying.org.uk/ .
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age.