Power of Attorney and Guardianship Solicitors serving Inverness and the Highlands of Scotland
Protecting your family when you need it most
Every day of our lives, we make decisions without even thinking. But most people do not plan for what will happen if they’re unable to make their own decisions.
Your spouse, partner, children or other loved ones will be powerless to make any decisions — even as next of kin — unless you have appointed them in a Power of Attorney.
Power of Attorney – when it’s too late
Many people have heard of Power of Attorney but assume they can leave it until they need it. In most cases, waiting until the minute you need it, is too late.
You need the capacity to make your own decisions to be able to appoint a person to act as your attorney.
If you no longer have mental capacity — whether as a result of a medical condition, an accident or simply old age — and have no power of attorney, the decision about who looks after your affairs is made by the Court.
This can often be a lengthy process.
In some cases, decisions can even be taken out of the hands of your family altogether. Responsibility for looking after your welfare could be given to the Chief Social Worker of the local authority.
When There is No Power of Attorney
A common problem that arises is when a person is in hospital on delayed discharge (also known as “bed blocking”).
They’re medically and physically fit to be discharged but cannot be — as they have lost their capacity to agree to the discharge.
If there’s no Power of Attorney, the person will remain on delayed discharge until a Guardian is appointed through the local court.
This is a hugely stressful procedure for the person in hospital and their family. In addition, delayed discharge costs NHS Scotland millions of pounds per year.
But it can be avoided by having a Power of Attorney in place.
The cost of drawing up a Power of Attorney often puts people off.
But it’s important to remember that it’s a one-off cost. An insurance in case you need someone to look after your finances and your health and welfare.
Compared to household contents insurance, for example — which you have to keep paying year after year — this doesn’t seem too unreasonable.
Case Study 1
Mrs Y suffered a major stroke and was admitted to hospital.
She was assessed as lacking capacity and it was clear that she would no longer be able to care for herself.
Mrs Y had appointed her son and daughter to be her attorneys two years prior to this. They were able to arrange care in the home and she was moved from hospital by her children as soon as she was medically fit to be discharged.
Case Study 2
Mrs Z had been diagnosed with dementia and lived at home with her husband. They had been married for 55 years.
She was admitted to hospital as an emergency and required an operation. Because Mrs Z was lacking in mental capacity, the consultant asked Mr Z for a power of attorney before he would discuss the case with him.
Luckily, Mr and Mrs Z had granted powers of attorney in favour of each other prior to this. Mr Z was able to speak with the doctor immediately.