Where to get legal advice for the elderly and vulnerable

Senior couple writing their signatures under contract after a consultationFinding legal advice for the elderly or vulnerable can be a struggle so we’ve collected advice on the key legal issues that face the elderly and vulnerable today.

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with a neurodegenerative condition like dementia or simply want to set safeguards in place while you’re still able to, at some point you may wish to seek legal advice to secure your finances, health care and personal matters.

However, when it comes to legal advice regarding the elderly and vulnerable, decoding legal information to find answers to your specific questions can be extremely difficult. Moreover, free legal advice is unfortunately unavailable for the majority of elderly people, with the Law Society estimating 7.5 million people aged 65 or over live in a local authority area without a single legal aid provider.

While there’s a lot of legal advice out there on the internet, it may not answer all the questions you have and sometimes can be inaccurate. With legal issues varying from person to person, when looking for advice, it is imperative that you get the right information for you. This is why we encourage you to speak to one of our elderly care solicitors at Romain Coleman.

What sort of legal advice could the elderly or vulnerable need?

Regardless of your current situation, problems that require legal attention can often come out of the blue, especially when your physical or mental health may be declining. Alternatively, you might understand that legal advice may be necessary at some point in the future but might not know what specific legal tools are at your disposal.

In order to give you more clarity, we’ve provided a list of advice on legal topics that our solicitors at Romain Coleman deal with on a day to day basis. Attached to these topics are links to corresponding articles, offering a more in-depth look at the issues that concern you.

Because there’s a lot of information in this article, here are the subheadings that will be discussed below:

  • Creating a Will
  • Changing a Will
  • Statutory Wills
  • Advance Decision
  • Advance Statement
  • Lasting Power of Attorney
  • Property and financial affairs LPA
  • Health and Welfare LPA
  • Ordinary Power of Attorney

Creating a Will

Writing a Will is vitally important if you want to be sure you know how your financial assets will be distributed correctly and your final wishes carried out after you are gone. Nevertheless, many of us don’t seem to have one. Research carried out in 2017 found that over 31 million adults in the UK have not prepared a Will, meaning their possessions, money and property could be distributed against their wishes. Furthermore, 1 in 10 people admitted they planned to update theirs to include children and grandchildren but hadn’t got around to doing it.

For people with a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, making a Will is a matter of urgency. To make a Will, you must have ‘mental capacity’, meaning the ability to make decisions in your own best interest. Due to the unpredictable neurodegenerative progression of dementia, there may quickly come a time when you will ‘lack capacity’, making you unable to create or edit your own Will.

Changing a Will

Although you may already have a Will, circumstances can change, which mean you need to alter the document. For instance, you might not have had grandchildren when your Will was initially written; you could have had different assets or sadly one of your beneficiaries might have died.

In order to change a will, you can either write a completely new one or add a codicil to the existing Will. A codicil is a document which allows you to make small changes to parts of your Will. You can create multiple codicils, provided they are kept together with the existing Will, are signed and appropriately witnessed by another party. However, if you are making significant changes to your Will, time may be better spent drafting up a new one. For more information, follow the link to this article Updating or changing your Will.

Statutory Wills

While it is advisable that you make a Will before you die, if you have been affected by a head injury, dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may lack capacity in the eyes of the law, meaning you will be unable to make a Will yourself. In these instances, a Statutory Will can be made by your relatives applying to the Court of Protection. There are a number of legal processes to follow, and the person responsible for the Statutory Will may have to go to the Court of Protection to attend a hearing if the Court requests one.

Not writing a watertight Will or being unable to do so means your family members can’t carry out your final wishes, adding further stress and anxiety during the grieving process. Contact our team of Will and Probate solicitors to draft up a legally sound Will or support a family member with the Statutory Will process. In other words, our solicitors can offer you the peace of mind you need during what might be a trying period for you or your family.

For more on Wills information on the questions you might have about Wills, see:

Writing an Advance Decision or an Advance Statement

The NHS defines an Advance Decision (sometimes known as an ADRT or a Living Will) as ‘a decision you can make now to refuse a specific type of treatment at some time in the future’. This can include life-sustaining treatments such as CPR and life support systems. An Advance Decision is a legally binding document which needs to be:

  • Written down
  • Signed by you
  • Signed by a witness

If you suffer from a neurodegenerative disease, object to life-sustaining treatments or simply want to make tough medical decisions faced by your loved ones simpler, you might consider writing one. An Advance Decision is a sensitive topic, so if you are unsure whether you would like one or not, read through our article ‘Should I Make A Living Will?’ to find out more information.

An Advance Statement, on the other hand, is not legally binding. This statement is more a suggestion of your preferences, beliefs and values to those who may have to take care of you in the future. As a result, this means that the people who read this statement can go against your wishes if they agree to take a different decision.
This document can cover:

  • How you want your religious beliefs to be respected while you are in care
  • The type of accommodation you would like to be in, e.g. at home, nursing home or hospice
  • Individuals who you would allow to have a say in your care
  • Dietary requirements

You need to give a copy of your Advance statement to anyone who is caring for you, including family members, doctors, carers and other medical professionals. If you do decide that you would like to formulate an Advance Decision or Advanced statement, our team of Dementia Solicitors can simplify and guide you through all the relevant legal documents.

Invoking a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

If you are worried that, at some point, you might not be able to make decisions for yourself because of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or your declining health, invoking a Lasting Power of Attorney can be a useful tool to protect your future wishes. With no expiry date, a Lasting Power of Attorney allows a person (a donor) to appoint a trusted individual to make their decisions when they are no longer able to make them themselves. They can protect you from things like financial fraud, identity theft and unwanted medical treatments. There are two types of LPAs, and it is recommended you appoint both at the same time:

  • Welfare and Health

This type of LPA is appointed to decide on the future of your medical care and choice of life-sustaining treatment (if you have not specified in an Advance Decision). This LPA can only make decisions once you have lost mental capacity.

  • Property and Financial Affairs

This type of LPA is appointed to decide on your bank accounts, property, bills and pensions. Your attorney can make decisions immediately for you once they are registered.

To appoint an LPA, you must have mental capacity. If you have declining mental health due to a disease such as dementia, it is essential to appoint LPAs as soon as you can before you start to lose your mental capacity. LPAs must be error-free and registered with the government through the Office of the Public Guardian.

Ordinary Power of Attorney

An Ordinary Power of Attorney is the simplest form of Power of Attorney and is usually used for temporary matters. It allows for an individual to control your finances and assets while you are unable to, due to something like a long stay in hospital. Limits can be placed upon what decisions they can make, and, unlike an LPA, time limits can be set.

They are easy to set up (no need to register with the Office of the Public Guardian) and can be effective from the date you specify. However, it is only valid when you have mental capacity. Therefore, if you lose capacity, it ceases to be valid and you will then be unable to appoint a Lasting Power of Attorney.

We would always recommend you speak to a qualified elderly care solicitor like our team here at Romain Coleman regarding LPAs. We can give you expert advice on what can often be a complicated process.

For more information on LPAs, see our articles:

Romain Coleman – specialist legal advice for the elderly and vulnerable

Since 1964, Romain Coleman has been offering outstanding legal support and advice for our elderly and vulnerable clients through our experienced teams of Dementia and Wills and Probate Solicitors. Specialisation in these areas means we can provide expert advice on the specific queries you might have. For sensible, straightforward advice without the legal jargon, call our solicitors at Romain Coleman on 0208 520 4555 or complete our simple online form and let us do the rest.

 

This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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