Probate Lawyers Say Act Fast To Prevent Money MiseryMarch 6, 2015
Sorting out your financial affairs might seem the least of your worries when you or a loved one is given the devastating diagnosis of dementia.
But Lynda Monks, one of the expert Wills and Probate lawyers at Macks Solicitors in Middlesbrough, says it’s vital to act quickly and prevent storing up problems for the future.
The law states you can only make decisions about who is to look after your cash, home and other assets while you still have the state of mind – or “capacity” – to do so.
If you leave it too late, the Court of Protection will step in and make these decisions for you.
“Dementia seems to be more and more common these days, possibly because people are living longer,” explains Lynda.
“When the diagnosis is made, the last thing on somebody’s mind is to contact a law firm and arrange a Lasting Power of Attorney.
“But that’s almost your only opportunity to do it. As soon as your capacity begins to decline that is the time to act.
“If you miss that chance an application to the Court for a Deputy will need to be filed and this more expensive and time-consuming.
“So it’s far better to create your own Power of Attorney while you have the capacity to do so.”
Lynda has attended a course run by the charity Dementia Friends to help deepen her knowledge of the issues surrounding the often deeply distressing condition.
“The course gave me more of an understanding of what it’s like to suffer from dementia and that helps me understand clients and their families a little bit better,” she says.
She says there is an increasing awareness of the legal implications of dementia. However, she still meets too many families who have not acted in time to prevent court intervention.
“People are getting better signposting from the medical profession now and charities know more about it,” she says.
“But it’s still missed a lot of the time and that causes misery for the family because they can’t access that person’s funds to pay for things they need to.”
Once someone no longer has capacity due to dementia, Lynda can act for families in Court of Protection proceedings.
These can also be required if a child or a severely disabled person receives money in a personal injury settlement. Lynda is a Deputy for her cousin, who has Downs Syndrome.
“When someone has lost or has never had capacity and has money that needs looking after, somebody else, either a professional person or a relative, is appointed by the court as their deputy to do that,” she says.
“The court may want a professional deputy, if there’s a large amount of money, for example, a multi-million pound settlement that needs to be invested. Sometimes I will be the deputy.
“If it’s an older person, a family member can often look after their affairs.”
Lynda’s work in Macks’ team of probate lawyers also involves helping people who receive compensation pay-outs set up trusts to ring-fence the money, allowing them to access the funds while still receiving any state benefits they are entitled to.