Here's a gloomy topic for an otherwise sunny Thursday: what would happen to your bills and bank accounts if you were run over by a bus and couldn’t use a cash-point or a computer? The same goes for elderly parents if they start becoming a bit forgetful or, worse, succumb to any one of a list of horrible diseases such as cancer, dementia or Alzheimer’s.
I’m the only person who knows the PINs and passwords for my online financial dealings. They’re not even written down anywhere. The kids have hacked into the Netflix account, I admit, but not even Mr Minted knows how to access my current account or funds. So if I was incapacitated, how would anyone be able to sort out my affairs?
We recently had an elderly relative pass on which has brought this issue into focus. Death, it seems, brings with it a vast amount of bureaucracy. However, a death certificate is a great help in sorting paperwork. Matters are much more tricky if you’re still alive, even if you’re incapable.
One way to get around this is to set up what’s called a lasting power of attorney. This allows your chosen representative to handle your finances – and/or your healthcare – should you become unable to do so yourself. It’s easy enough to do without a solicitor but it needs to be completed and signed off while you’re still compos mentis.
With Grandpa in his mid-80s, I decided this would be a sensible precaution. But what in theory sounds a good idea gets tougher in practice. Grandpa is fitter than me and, like buying insurance for some disaster that may or may not happen in the future, is doubtful that the effort is at all necessary. Especially when it requires a great deal of form-filling, witnessing of signatures and so on. Then it has to be registered by the Office of the Public Guardian at a cost of £82. It’s a real shoulder-sinker of a job. Dull, dull, dull.
Another concern for Grandpa is whether he should hand control to his daughters. Honest as we are, there is a certain loss of independence. Many older people are understandably reluctant to relinquish their hold on that, particularly as it’s not so clear when the nominated attorneys can actually take the reins. It's actually when the document is registered, although it may not be necessary at that point. However, you can add a condition (although this will probably cost extra) that the attorneys only come into their power once a trigger point (eg an illness is diagnosed) is reached.
This is all well and good but why not wait till the calamity arises? The trouble is that registering the document can take between six weeks and three months, it’s been reported. In a crisis, that is just too long not to have access and would merely add to the distress. So we’re pushing ahead with the admin. Hopefully we’ll never have to use it but, if we have to, I think we’ll be grateful we set it up.
I found these pages really helpful when looking into power of attorney: