This week, news coverage has focused on the well-known ex-footballer and former Match of the Day presenter Jimmy Hill, who is sadly suffering from dementia and living in a nursing home near the south coast.

In 2005 Jimmy signed an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) appointing his third wife Bryony and a solicitor to act as his attorneys to deal with his affairs if he became unable to do so himself. Subsequently the EPA has caused upset and frustration for his children, who feel they should have been consulted by their father at the time the EPA was created. As a result, none of his children has any say in his financial affairs or his care needs. (Following the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which came into force in 2007, Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) replaced the old style EPAs).

Jimmy’s children from his second marriage have spoken out, urging elderly parents to talk to their children in advance of making LPAs, so that they are included in the challenging choices and considerations surrounding the subject. Whilst it is ultimately the decision of the person making the LPA, openly discussing the LPA with your family could make a huge difference and eliminate any potential disputes arising in the future. Some family members may not want to be appointed as an attorney, whereas others may want to take this responsibility on. There are choices including the number of attorneys appointed, the type of power the attorneys have, and possible restrictions or conditions to the LPA. There is, however, no obligation on the person making the LPA to consult or notify anyone when making it. But keeping your family in the dark about its creation could mean it is never discovered at all.

Whilst there are always stories about feuding families in the press, the problems that can arise from not having an LPA in place far outweigh any disadvantages of having one. Dementia affects 820,000 people in the UK, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK, and an LPA offers peace of mind and certainty to parents and children alike. An LPA gives a person complete choice in who they want to appoint to make decisions for them, if they one day are unable. Without one, the family either has to somehow ‘muddle through’ without any legal authority, or they can find that the person’s assets are essentially frozen until the court can appoint a ‘deputy’ (sometimes a professional) which is burdensome and costly.

Nina Sampson