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The Function of a Power of Attorney in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Function of a Power of Attorney in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Making decisions is part of everyday life - from where we go when we step out the front door to who comes to visit us in our homes. You rarely consider a time when these choices could be made for you and yet the measures implemented as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis have left us incapable of planning our next move. 

During this time, it is crucial to focus on areas of your life which you can control and ensure that your future is in line with your wishes. Setting up a Power of Attorney is a fantastic and muscular tool which gives you the power to take control and be in charge of what happens to you.

Our team at The Burnside Partnership are available to help you despite the current Coronavirus situation, offering free half-hour telephone and video consultations to discuss your concerns. You can get in touch with us by calling our Oxford office on 01865 987781 or our Marlow office on 01628 301221 or by completing the online enquiry form, and one of our lawyers will get back to you as soon as possible.

How can a Power of Attorney help during the crisis?

Firstly, it’s important to understand the different types of Power of Attorney available in England, what powers are exercised from each, and how they could give you temporary or permanent assistance during the Coronavirus.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets you (the donor) appoint one or more representatives (the attorney) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. Depending on the kind of Power of Attorney you set up, the person you appoint as your attorney can help with your finances or your long-term health care plans.

The benefits of a Lasting Power of Attorney

If you are looking to protect yourself entirely and ensure decisions made about your life are based on what you want, a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is crucial. LPAs can cover health and welfare, finances, or both.

An action plan for adult social care was released in April 2020, highlighting the importance of LPAs during the crisis. With concern raised that advance care plans are currently being applied ‘in a blanket fashion’, the report stresses that this ‘must always be a personalised process’:

“Everyone at risk of losing mental capacity or nearing the end of their life should be offered the opportunity to develop advance care planning that makes their wishes clear, and make arrangements, such as Lasting Power of Attorney for health and social care decisions, to put their affairs in order.”

If you would like to ensure your wishes are followed in terms of your advanced care plan, get in touch today to discuss setting up an LPA.

What type of LPA do I need?

There are two kinds of LPAs in England; a health and welfare LPA, and property and financial affairs LPA.

Health and welfare LPA

Health and welfare LPAs give your attorney the power to make decisions about your life, from life-sustaining treatment down to your daily routine.

Property and financial affairs LPA

A property and financial affairs LPA allows your attorney to make decisions about money and property on your behalf, for example managing a bank account, paying bills, or selling your home.

Both powers of attorney be used with your permission as soon as they’re registered.

You can read more about the requirements of setting up a Power of Attorney in England by clicking here

I am self-isolating and need help quickly – what can I do?

During the pandemic, a General Power of Attorney (GPA) can be useful if you want someone to look after your finances temporarily and immediately. If you fall under the ‘high risk’ category and have to self-isolate, it may be worth speaking to loved ones about setting up a GPA. This would allow you to get the help you need in the interim. 

However, you should be aware that a GPA only covers financial decisions and is only valid while you have mental capacity. Therefore your appointed individual cannot help with decisions about your health should something happen to you and, if you lose mental capacity, the power granted with an GPA will be immediately revoked.

How do I set up an LPA and respect social distancing measures?

Signing and witnessing LPAs follows a very similar process as Wills . Under current laws, a Power of Attorney must be witnessed by an independent adult and, as of yet, this requirement has been given little leniency to account for the current circumstances. You will also need to be assessed by a certificate provider – a professional such as a lawyer or doctor or a friend who has known you for at least two years.

If you are considering setting up an LPA during the lockdown, the process will need to be carefully planned to ensure you do not go against government guidelines of social distancing.

For LPAs to be valid, the document must be signed by:

·      The donor

·      The attorney(s)

·      The witnesses

·      A certificate provider (your solicitor)

The document will be signed by you first, and then passed on to the attorney. In light of the pandemic, all of this could take place via video conferencing facilities, with the LPA posted to your attorney who can have a family member as their witness.

Please note, your solicitor must be fully satisfied you are not being subjected to any pressure to sign an LPA and that you understand what powers you are bestowing by signing the document. If your lawyer confirms you made the LPA by choice, they will sign and move forward with registering the document.

How long will it take for my Power of Attorney to be activated?

An LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). While the OPG aims to register LPA applications within 40 working days, it expects this could take longer than normal as a result of the Coronavirus crisis.

The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are currently looking at the registration of LPAs and how to speed up the process.

In these unusual times, you must be prepared for all eventualities. To start setting up your Power of Attorney today, speak with one of our lawyers. 

Get in touch with our Lasting Power of Attorney solicitors in Oxford & Marlow now

The Coronavirus pandemic highlights how easily our power to make decisions can be stripped from us at a moment’s notice. With the help of a Power of Attorney, you can ensure that your wishes are followed should you lose the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself. Do not delay, get in touch with our Power of Attorney team today at our Oxford office on 01865 987781 or our Marlow office on 01628 301221 for continued support through this unprecedented time.

This guide does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only. If you require specific legal advice you should contact one of our lawyers who can advise you based on your own circumstances.

Please note this information is accurate as of 1 June 2020 and is subject to change as official guidance is adapted to reflect the implications of the virus.