Many people’s New Year resolutions don’t even make it to the end of January – pledges to cut down on chocolates or to start going to the gym are well-meant but are rarely followed through.
However, one New Year’s resolution you should definitely stick to, is to sort out your personal affairs, by making sure you have in place both an up-to-date Will and Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
Tim Steele, a partner with Palmers who specialises in both Wills and LPAs, said: “Most people recognise that it’s a sensible idea to plan for the future, but a worryingly large proportion don’t actually get around to doing anything about it.
“Around two thirds of people currently do not have a Will and a third of these will die intestate. Still fewer have got around to sorting out an Advance Decision or Lasting Power of Attorney. Research conducted by the Office of the Public Guardian revealed that almost half of respondents (45 per cent) had never heard of an LPA, or knew nothing about it.”
The recent case of former soldier and policeman, Paul Briggs, has sadly highlighted the issue of not having in place either an Advance Decision or an LPA.
Mr Briggs, who is 43 years old and has a wife and young daughter, has been in a ‘minimally conscious state’ since July 2015 when he was involved in a motorcycle collision. In December 2016 his family pleaded with the Courts to allow his life support to be turned off, arguing that he would have viewed living in his current condition as ‘torture and hell.’
Although a Court of Protection judge agreed with the family that it was not in Mr Briggs’ best interests for treatment to continue, barristers acting for the hospital currently caring for him have been given leave to appeal the decision, leaving the family in a state of limbo.
Doctors at the Walton Centre in Liverpool are fighting to continue treatment, claiming that Mr Briggs has shown some signs of improvement although they admit that even in a best-case scenario he will remain severely physically disabled.
Tim continued: “A properly drafted Advance Decision or LPA would have provided both the family and the medical team with more certainty regarding Mr Briggs’ wishes.
“An Advance Decision, as the term suggests, allows a person to refuse specific medical treatment if, at some point in the future, when treatment is to be given, they have lost capacity to give their consent to it.
A Health and Welfare LPA allows a person to appoint an attorney to act on their behalf, should they lose the mental capacity to make decisions. The attorney will have authority to make almost all personal welfare and healthcare decisions for that individual, including giving or refusing consent to medical treatment and decisions about their day-to-day care.
“Advice regarding the drafting of an LPA or an Advance Decision – often known as a Living Will – is something which a specialist legal expert can assist with. Putting in place a directive for your future care is an important decision and there’s no time like the present for sorting this out.”
For more information and advice on Wills, Lasting Power of Attorney and Advance Decisions, please contact us.