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Why do I need a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney?

Ensuring that you have someone with the ability to make decisions for you if you lose mental capacity is incredibly important for you and your loved ones, says Deborah Gilpin

There are two types of lasting power of attorney (LPA), which is a legal document that lets you appoint one or more people to make decisions on your behalf.

Many of us understand the advantages of making a Property and Financial Affairs LPA and now, with one person in the UK developing dementia every few minutes, a growing number are realising the benefits of making a Health and Welfare LPA too.

What is a Health & Welfare LPA?

A Health and Welfare LPA enables you to choose the person, or persons, you would wish to make personal decisions on your behalf, known as your attorney(s), including decisions about medical treatment or care; where you should live; who can visit you; and what you should wear and eat. Crucially, it ensures that professionals such as doctors or social services share information and fully consult with your attorney(s) before action is taken.

Unlike the Property and Financial LPA, a Health and Welfare LPA can only ever be used if you have lost the mental capacity to make such decisions yourself. Whilst you have capacity, no one else can make these decisions for you.

By setting up a Health and Welfare LPA, you are able to nominate legally someone you trust, who knows your wishes and will act in your best interests at all times when making such decisions.

When should I consider one?

Capacity to manage your affairs can be lost for many reasons, such as a sudden accident or medical condition. With over 850,000 people in the UK currently living with dementia (and rising) ensuring your loved ones have the ability to make decisions for you is essential.

None of us know what the future holds so LPAs are important documents for everyone to consider. However, deciding who will make decisions about your welfare, medical treatment and care is particularly important if you have been diagnosed with a degenerative illness or condition. It is also very important to consider making an LPA if you want someone who is not a family member to made decisions, or to exclude a particular family member from being involved in such matters.

Caring for a loved one who has fallen ill often places an enormous strain on family members and friends. Having a Health and Welfare LPA in place helps to ensure they are not also faced with legal problems.

It is never an easy conversation to have with your family, but doing so ensures that they are aware of your wishes and, importantly, you have peace of mind from knowing that your wishes will be carried out by your attorney(s), who can speak on your behalf when you are unable to do so.

Deborah Gilpin is an associate in our private client team

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