Planning for possible future ill health

Posted on: February 26th, 2018

Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.  Not a particularly uplifting fact but very true.

We are generally quite good at preparing for death with a Will and sometimes even organising and paying for a funeral plan in advance. Taxes are accepted (not always willingly!) as an everyday occurrence. What is more difficult to plan for is our future health; unfortunately, good health is not a certainty. 

Putting a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place is a great way to plan for any future possible ill health. The document gives formal authority to your trusted attorneys to look after your health and/or  property and finances on your behalf. I often refer to it as an insurance policy which can be relied on, if required, but will hopefully never be needed.

The need for such a document is usually based on ‘mental capacity’ or rather the lack of it. I say ‘usually’ because it is possible for the financial power to be used when the person still has mental capacity, hence the emphasis on the need for trust when choosing your attorneys.  

Another way to plan is to look at preparing an ‘Advanced Decision’ and/or an ‘Advanced Statement’.

  • You can make an Advanced Decision, sometimes called a Living Will, if you have any strong feelings about specific life sustaining treatment or refusing specific treatment. In a nutshell, it is a way of formalising any decisions that you would like your family and medical professionals to know about if, when the time comes, you are unable to communicate them yourself. The emphasis here is on the word specific but be aware that there is a lot more to be considered to ensure the Decision is legally valid and binding.
  • An Advanced Statement is a written statement of your wishes, preferences and beliefs about your future health and care which can be used as a guide for your attorneys (if you have an LPA), family members and medical professionals. It is useful if you can’t communicate your wishes yourself,  perhaps due to a lack of mental capacity, so others can take them into account when considering what would be in your best interests. Unlike the Advanced Decision, the statement isn’t legally binding but can be persuasive to medics and a useful crutch for family members or carers who might be worried about what you would want.     

And so, to end this with another, rather appropriate, Benjamin Franklin classic; “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today”. 

If you would like more information about any of these documents, or you would like some general advice about mental capacity please contact our Court of Protection team. 

This article was first published in the Newbury News on 23 February 2018.