Supporting Elderly Clients & Power of Attorney
While living increasingly long life-spans has wonderful advantages for our elderly population, for a significant number, there will be a progressive need for assistance in managing financial affairs and other matters of business. Members of family will expect to be involved in discussions with health and care professionals concerning matters of personal welfare of an elderly relative, including authorisation of medical procedures and a care regime.
It is most important that proper written documentation is put in place by the elderly person on a precautionary basis as officialdom will not accept informal intervention by a member of family. This can easily be provided by executing a Continuing Power of Attorney or a Welfare Power of Attorney, provided action is taken early enough when the granter retains capacity to understand the documents concerned and to give free consent.
The process of handing over responsibility for administration of the elderly person's affairs can be gradual as suits the circumstances. Just because the elderly person has granted a Power of Attorney, it does not mean that the granter is prevented from continuing to deal with his/her own affairs. The arrangement can be very flexible and the granter always retains the Power to cancel the Power of Attorney entirely. The fact that ultimate control of the Power of Attorney remains with the granter means that people should consider granting a Power of Attorney even at an earlier age as a precautionary measure since accidents or sudden onset of illness can cause loss of capacity at any time.
A Welfare Power of Attorney is a similar kind of mandate (usually to a close member of family) to authorise consents and decision taking on matters of personal welfare at a future date when the elderly person may have lost capacity to give such consent - e.g. for medical procedure and treatment or transfer to residential care.
If capacity has been lost and no Power of Attorney is in place, other procedures must be adopted. While there is a limited process of getting access to funds for payment of regular bills and care fees, any more substantial financial management will require an application to Court for financial guardianship - a much more cumbersome, expensive and inflexible procedure. Earlier pre-emptive action really can be “a stitch in time”.
A transfer to residential care will usually involve clearance and sale of a house, possibly with storage, distribution or sale of furniture. A fundamental review of financial arrangements will also be appropriate to provide for funding the cost of continuing care, access to benefits and to look at strategies for passing on surplus assets to the next generation in a tax efficient manner.