Case Study: What happened to this elderly lady when she could no longer make independent decisions?

Elderly woman appoints her daughter as her LPA with the help of Willans law firm in Cheltenham.

No one knows what the future holds, but appointing an LPA can at least help you and your family prepare for it. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Suffering from dementia and without lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) in place, how was this elderly woman able to seek help with her finances and healthcare?

Janine Guthrie, an associate chartered legal executive at Willans LLP solicitors in Cheltenham, shares the journey an older woman and her family embarked on after she discovered she had dementia but had no LPA in place.

Below, Janine reveals the details of the case and explains what steps your family can take to avoid facing the same dilemma.

The case: An older individual who lost mental capacity while diagnosed with dementia

After noticing signs of memory loss, mood changes and lapses in conversation, a concerned family member took their elderly relative to the doctor. After an assessment, they determined that the woman was, unfortunately, suffering from dementia.

Janine Guthrie, an LPA solicitor at Willans Solicitors in Cheltenham - 24 May 2022Pic

Janine Guthrie, associate chartered legal executive at Willans law firm. - Credit: Andrew Higgins/Thousand Word Media

Under section two of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, a person who 'lacks capacity' is unable to make a decision for themselves 'because of an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain.'

Being diagnosed with dementia doesn't automatically mean that a person lacks mental capacity, but if LPAs have not already been entered into, then steps should be taken to seek legal advice in order to appoint attorneys.

A person can only take over managing someone's affairs if they have permission through a power of attorney or by an application to the Court of Protection.

What happened next? Applying to the Court of Protection for deputyship

Unaware that their relative had not made an LPA, the family were surprised to find out that they had no legal authority to act on her behalf. They had to apply to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy. This was the only way they could gain permission to manage her affairs.

Most Read

This took over six months to approve and was extremely time-consuming and costly for the family. It also meant they couldn’t make any decisions regarding their loved one’s finances, and the local authority was assigned to handle the woman’s move to a residential setting.

The family had to wait for the deputyship to be approved before they could sell the woman’s property or handle her savings accounts to help cover care fees, which only added to their distress.

Once the order was granted, the appointed deputy was able to start managing the lady's finances and work with the care home to decide on the best treatment for her.

What would have happened if there was an LPA in place?

If she had already appointed lasting powers of attorney, the lady's family would've been able to manage both her property and finances, as well as make decisions over her health and wellbeing right away.

She could have appointed an attorney or attorneys to manage her affairs, and she would have had the knowledge and comfort that the people she chose were those she trusted to make the right decisions.

Putting an LPA in place would have made life much easier and less stressful for all the family. It’s also a cheaper and quicker alternative to applying for a deputyship.

How would seeking legal advice first have helped?

The lady would have been aware of the consequences of not appointing LPAs and could have put these in place. She would've been advised on the decisions her attorneys could make and the documents would've been tailormade to her circumstances, giving her attorneys all the information necessary to act and make things easy for all parties.

Willans LLP Solicitors celebrate their 75th anniversary working as a legal firm in Cheltenham.

This year Willans celebrates its 75th year in business. - Credit: Willans LLP

Often, people aren’t aware of the legal decisions they can make that can benefit them in the future and help to protect their families. This is why we’d always recommend taking legal advice to ensure the documents you're making absolutely meet your needs. There are likely to be some steps you can take to help you preserve your finances and prepare for the curveballs that life can throw.

We deal with situations like this every day, know what pitfalls to avoid, and can make writing your will or appointing an attorney simple and easy.

It’s important to remember you can only make these decisions when you possess mental capacity, and that leaving it too late can have consequences. Anyone over 18 can appoint an LPA, and these decisions can be revoked or amended at any time.

Our advisors are incredibly easy to talk to and can provide bespoke legal advice and support to suit your circumstances. We are Lexcel Law Society accredited and ranked on merit by Chambers UK and The Legal 500.  

No one knows what the future holds, but there are safeguards you can put in place to make life more comfortable for you and your family, and we’re dedicated to helping show you how.

Call Janine on 01242 541568 or email janine.guthrie@willans.co.uk.

Alternatively, read Willans LLP's guide to lasting powers of attorney.