Dementia - What steps can we take to safeguard our loved ones?

Dementia - What steps can we take to safeguard our loved ones?

Sadly, it has recently been reported by ITV news that a granddaughter stole £4,000 from her grandmother's bank account to fund a trip to Disneyland. The grandmother is living with dementia and had given her granddaughter (it seems unofficial) access to her bank account to assist her granddaughter with living expenses.

The granddaughter has been given a 12 month suspended jail sentence. The full article can be viewed here http://www.itv.com/news/central/2018-01-07/thief-steals-4-000-off-own-dementia-stricken-grandmother/.

Unfortunately, far too many incidents such as these occur to the more vulnerable members of our society, and particularly to those living with dementia.

This raises the question, what steps can we take to safeguard our loved ones? What can we do to help a family member or close friend following a diagnosis of dementia?

It is important to remember that if an individual loses, or starts to lose mental capacity a spouse, next of kin, or family member is not automatically appointed to legally deal with their affairs.

Lasting Powers of Attorney

If an individual is diagnosed with dementia, or other condition that means they are likely to require help and support in the future, they should consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney. This would allow the individual to appoint specific people they trust implicitly to help them, legally, manage their affairs. This can help safeguard against the person falling victim to financial abuse.

Taking advice from a legal profession is essential here to ensure that the person fully understands the powers they are giving to their attorney and also considers who would be best in the role. We help individuals to explore whether a particular family member or friend is suitable. We have broken down some of the key things attorneys need to consider before making decisions on behalf of the Donor.

For more information on making a Lasting Power of Attorney after a diagnosis of dementia please see one of our previous articles 'Case Study: Making a Lasting Power of Attorney after a Diagnosis of Dementia'.

However, if the individual has not taken steps to make a Lasting Power or Attorney or is at the point where they no longer have sufficient mental capacity, the Court can appoint someone to act on the person's behalf as a Deputy.

Deputyship

If you are caring for an individual who has been diagnosed with dementia but they do not have sufficient understanding to make a Lasting Power of Attorney you may apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order. This enables a person who is appointed as Deputy by the court to make decisions on behalf of the person living with dementia in circumstances when the person is unable to make those decisions themselves.

There are two types of Deputy:

  • Property and Affairs Deputy
  • Personal Welfare Deputy

You can apply to be a person's Deputy if you are aged 18 or over. Such applicants tend to be close friends, relatives or legal professionals. The Court can appoint two or more Deputies for one person, if appropriate.

The Court monitors the Deputy appointed and reviews annual accounts to ensure that the person's affairs are managed correctly. This helps to protect the person living with dementia, or other condition which may affect their mental capacity.

The process of applying to become a person's Deputy can take much longer than if the person had taken steps to make a Lasting Power of Attorney while they were still able to. This is because the person is no longer able to willingly appoint those they trust to act on their behalf. Therefore, the Court requires much more information to be able to make a decision that would be in that person's best interests.

Due to the nature of the application, and the additional work involved, the process of applying to be a person's Deputy is invariably going to be more costly than if the person had made a Lasting Power of Attorney. However, if the person has reached the point where they can no longer make decisions on their own, and there is no Lasting Power of Attorney in place, there is little choice other than to go down this route. We aim to deal with such applications as quickly and cost efficiently as possible. We also ensure we make applicants aware of the projected timescales, and possible delays with the Court system, from the outset.

If it is necessary for you to make an application for a Deputyship application, it is advisable to seek legal advice and make the application as soon as possible.

Summary

If you are aware that a family member or friend has been diagnosed with dementia we recommend you encourage them to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure they get their affairs in order and make a Lasting Power of Attorney. Although this can seem like a daunting task, the help and advice from a skilled lawyer will ensure that process runs smoothly and effectively.

If, however, making a Lasting Power of Attorney is not possible, we suggest a Deputyship application is considered. Our team of trained experts are here to help guide you through this process.

To find out more or discuss your individual requirements in further detail, our dedicated Lasting Power of Attorney and Deputyship solicitors will be delighted to help. Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.