Dementia Awareness Week
Dementia awareness week is about supporting people with dementia and raising awareness to make the UK a dementia-friendly place. Why is this so important? An alarming fact is that, in the UK, someone develops dementia every three minutes! It is not exclusive to older people, it also affects those in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.
When a diagnosis is made the emphasis is usually, and understandably, on what care and support needs to be put in place. There are some legal considerations that people are not always aware of. I often give talks to raise awareness of this so that people can make informed decisions about putting their affairs in order.
I thought that I would set out some of the issues that are important to consider as part of Dementia Awareness Week. The list is not exhaustive and is not in any particular order of importance.
Take advice regarding care fees – this can often be a minefield as clients tell me there is no one person to take you through the process from beginning to end. Some issues that come up are:
- Who pays for care and when.
- Third-party top-up agreements.
- How care is provided.
- Deferred payment agreements.
- Deliberate Deprivation
- NHS continuing care and how it is accessed.
Taking advice when you first receive a diagnosis will enable you and your family to make informed decisions and prepare for their care.
Put in place Lasting Powers of Attorneys (LPAs) – this is a legal document that enables you (the donor) to choose a person or persons (Attorneys) to step into your shoes and make decisions on your behalf when you can no longer make them for yourself. There are two kinds of LPAs: one for Property and Finance, and one for Health and Welfare. It is important that you understand the differences between the two.
It is also important to ensure that your LPAs are drafted correctly and that you consider the following:
- Who to appoint as your attorneys.
- How you appoint your attorneys.
- Understand the pros and cons of each option.
- What clauses you should put inside your LPA to ensure that you have a document that meets your needs.
Alternatively, If powers of attorney were not taken out and you have a loved one who does not have the mental capacity to make them, there is a solution. You can apply to the Court of Protection to ask that you or someone else be appointed to act as their deputy. The Court of Protection is a special Court that makes decisions for people who cannot make a decision for themselves. If this applies to your situation, seek advice from a Solicitor who can explain this to you in more detail.
Review your Will – it is important to review your will to see if it still does what you need it to do in light of a diagnosis. If you have not made a will, it would be sensible to talk to an advisor about putting one in place.
Review your property ownership – If you own property with another person, such as your partner or spouse, you may wish to check whether you own the property as joint tenants or as tenants in common. A Joint tenancy operates like a joint bank account, you both own the whole of it and on the death of the first owner, the property automatically passes to the surviving owner and it will pass via the will of the surviving owner.
If you hold the property as tenants in common, you are both the legal owners of the property, but you hold a share (usually 50%) that you can gift in your will. If you or your partner has a diagnosis of Dementia, it would be prudent to think about how you hold your property and whether you may wish to make a change in light of the diagnosis. Changing how you hold your property enables part of the value of your property to be ringfenced for your chosen beneficiaries.
If you are an attorney seek advice – if you are managing the finances for someone who does not have capacity, take the time to seek some independent legal advice on good practice to set you up for success. This can cover what gifts you can make and the limitations on this; what records to keep; and it can be bespoke to your particular situation to ensure that your actions are in the best interests of the donor.
It is better to take advice as soon as possible – the sooner you take advice the more choices you have and the more informed you are on your journey of care. Sometimes the information may not be needed at the time you get the advice, but you have signposts to look out for that will enable you to know what to do when you reach that particular point.
I would advise you to see a solicitor who is a fully accredited member of the Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) because they have the expertise and experience to deal with all the above matters. If you would like further information or advice, please do get in touch with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01404 541904