Being appointed as someone’s attorney can be a daunting prospect. After all, the role of an attorney requires you to make decisions about someone else’s money, health and wellbeing; all in all, a rather big part to play in someone’s life.
Here’s a guide as to some initial steps when becoming someone’s attorney and what your role entails:
Understand your new role
When appointed as an attorney, it’s important to fully understand what this means and the significant role you’ll be playing in the donor’s life. If you’re nominated as the attorney, you’ll be entrusted to make decisions should the donor lose their mental capacity; in other words, if they lose the ability to make specific decisions in their life at the time they need to be made.
From a financial point of view, this can mean you’re responsible for using their bank and savings accounts or even selling their home should the time come. From a health and welfare stance, this can be making decisions about their day-to-day routine and medical treatments. When appointed as an attorney, you must remember to always act honestly and in the donor’s best interest. It’s a significant role to be given and must not be ill-treated.
Property and financial affairs attorney – initial questions
Once you’ve grasped the notion of being one’s property and financial affairs attorney, it’s important to sit with the donor and discuss their current financial position. Key points to ask include:
- Benefits and pensions – where are these kept and what’s the current position?
- Do they donate to any charities on a regular basis?
- If they move into a care home at later date, what would they like to do with their property; sell or rent?
- Find out where their LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) document is kept – you can be charged if this is lost or destroyed so it’s important to locate this straight away and keep it somewhere safe.
As well as the “bigger picture”, it’s advised to sit with the donor and discuss, in detail, how they like to spend their money and manage their finances on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps ask them how much they like to spend on friends and family’s birthday or Christmas presents, for example, or ask if they have a minimum bank balance they like to keep.
Health and welfare attorney – initial questions
As above, talking is a great place to start when you’re a newly appointed health and welfare attorney. It’s important that you get a clear understanding of the donor’s current health and wellbeing status and understand their preferences. Some initial questions to ask could be:
- Do they have a special diet, such as being vegetarian, or any allergies to be aware of?
- If they own a pet, where would they like that pet to be sent should the donor move into a care home?
- What are their hobbies and taste in music, television or books?
As well as the smaller yet significant details, it’s also vital to discuss the donor’s future plans such as “Living Wills” and any preferences they have to their later-life care and treatment. It can be a tricky and sensitive subject to touch upon but it’s important that, as an attorney, you have all the facts and are fully aware of what the donor wishes.
Helping the donor
If the donor is still in a competent state of mind to make decisions for themselves, it’s important they’re encouraged to do so, even if you disagree with their thoughts. The law states that you must assume that someone can make decisions unless it’s apparent they can’t.
Whether you’re acting as a health and welfare attorney, a property and financial attorney or both, an open line of communication with the donor is vital. Ask they how they’d prefer to communicate decisions with you; remember, some might not find it as easy as just telling you.
Making decisions yourself
If the donor has been deemed mentally incapacitated and therefore unable to make decisions themselves, your role of attorney will fully come into play. Always bear in mind your initial fact-finding and make sure that any decision made on behalf of the donor is made with their best interests at heart. Always look for the least impacting option, where possible, and avoid decisions that might restrict the donor’s freedom.
Keeping a record of any decisions you make as an attorney is vital. Make a note of any important conclusion that’s made and keep the record safe. It’s also hugely important to inform others once the donor is no longer able to make decisions and your attorney role is launched. That includes carers, family, friends, the donor’s GP and any care workers. It’s also a good idea to let these people know of any donor preferences that you identified at the start so that everyone is on the same page.
If you want to find out more about the Lasting Power of Attorney agreements and the role of an attorney, contact Flackwoods Solicitors today on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01403 738777.