This tragic article highlights the importance of putting Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) in place during your lifetime.
LPAs are documents that allow those people you trust most (your named attorneys) to make decisions on your behalf, in the event that you are unable to do so yourself.
There are two types of LPA. The first (and the one discussed in this article) is for "Health and Welfare". This deals with decisions about the type of care you receive, with whom you have contact and ultimately, whether the doctors are to continue with life sustaining treatment in the event that you require it.
If you do not have a Health and Welfare LPA in place before you lose mental capacity, and end up requiring life sustaining treatment, the doctors will discuss what the individual would have wanted to happen with close family members, but they have the power to deviate from the family's wishes. There is an option to apply to the Court to regain control but this is slow and expensive process (likely many months).
If, however, there is a valid, registered LPA in place, the power reverts to those named in the LPA (the attorneys). In many cases, this allows the individual to die with dignity and saves families many months of heartache.
All too often, people focus on what happens once they have died. But, in reality, it is arguably far more important to put in place LPAs to determine what happens to you whilst you are still alive.
As private client lawyers, we always ensure that any estate planning meeting involves a discussion of the importance of LPAs. If nothing else, it provides peace of mind for you and for those closest to you.
It is a document with far more importance than a will, yet no-one knows of it.