An aging population and the need to plan for the future

Birkett Long’s charity of the year, the Alzheimer’s Society, estimates that the numbers of people living with dementia globally will increase from 46.8m in 2015 to 131.5m in 2050; a 281% increase. Although not a palatable thought, we should all consider planning for that ‘worst case’ scenario.

It is a fact that we are an ageing population. There is a growing number of vulnerable people within our society and we are seeing a steady increase in those who are mentally unable to manage their financial affairs. In light of the statistics from the Alzheimer’s Society, it is more important than ever to make provision for the future.  

Dementia is only one of the many reasons that someone might lose capacity and sadly, such incapacity can affect people at any age.

Our advice is always to make a lasting power of attorney (LPA) so that you retain the choice of who will look after your affairs should you not be able to do so yourself, but a recent warning came from Denzil Lush, a retired senior judge of the Court of Protection.  He said that people should be more aware of the risks of appointing an attorney and, as he saw it, the lack of safeguards in place.

Financial abuse can take many forms.  From the more obvious abuse where large sums of money are taken from someone’s bank account, to the surreptitious use of persuasion or overuse of a person’s bank card.  Mr Lush warned that in the cases he has dealt with ‘almost 90% of abusers were family members’, with 68% being a child of the donor.

Because LPAs are not monitored regularly, Mr Lush prefers the option where a deputy is appointed by the Court of Protection. This happens when someone has lost capacity but does not have a LPA. Deputies have to provide annual accounts to the court and have a security bond in place so if financial abuse takes place, the sums lost can be recovered.

Not everyone shares Mr Lush’s views. There are certainly drawbacks to waiting until a deputyship application needs to be made. 

Application to become a deputy can be made by anyone with sufficient interest, so unless you elect an attorney before you lose capacity, you will not have a choice over who steps in. Applying to be a deputy is more costly than creating a LPA as there are application fees, GP certification fees and annual fees.  It can take several months before the deputy is able to assume responsibility - time during which your loved ones would quite possibly have difficulty in managing your financial affairs.

In order to protect against potential future abuse, it is essential to choose your attorney wisely. Restrictions can be put in place when you create your LPA to help reduce the possibility of abuse. Appointing more than one attorney can also provide a check and balance.  If someone is suspected to be a victim of financial abuse or it seems that their financial affairs are not being properly managed by an attorney, there are steps that can be taken to remove that person as an attorney, or require them to be monitored by the Court of Protection.  On balance, we firmly believe that a LPA gives you control over what might happen in the future.  Our specialist lawyers will advise you on all aspects of dealing with your own or a loved one’s affairs including LPAs, deputyship applications and other applications to the Court.  

For a free 15-minute phone consultation, contact Amanda Smallcombe on 01206 217395 or amanda.smallcombe@birkettlong.co.uk.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.