In an increasingly competitive and international economy, it is more and more usual to seek new opportunities abroad. However, the lure of exciting new prospects will invariably weigh against concern for those left behind – not just friends and familiar faces, but parents and other relatives. While it may no longer be possible to call in and check up on elderly parents, there are steps that can be taken to give them the support they need and their far-flung children the reassurance they need.
Radical advances in medicine and healthcare over the past century have resulted in an increasingly ageing population. In 2010, according to the Office for National Statistics, 17% of the population was over the age of 65, and a staggering 1.4 million people were aged 85 years and over. Caring for older relatives is therefore a growing cause for concern, particularly amongst those embarking on a major relocation. However, there are certain legal and practical steps that individuals can take to ensure that their elderly relatives continue to receive support after they relocate
For example, some people may already assist their elderly relatives informally with the management of their finances, property, and health or care arrangements. If they move away, it may be more difficult for them to provide such assistance without formal authority. Alternatively, it may be that the relocation is long term, and whilst the elderly relative is capable of managing their own affairs for the time being, the individual is concerned that they, or another family member, may need to provide some assistance at a later stage.
In such instances, the elderly relative may wish to consider creating a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), which will provide another person with the authority to act on his (or her) behalf in the event they’re unable to do so because they lack mental capacity. The individual who is relocating should note that an elderly relative will only be able to create an LPA if they have the capacity to do so. Thus, planning ahead is vital. Not only is the LPA in place long before it is needed, but its preparation allows the family, as a whole, to discuss how decisions will be taken if the relative becomes unable to make decisions themselves.
There are two types of LPA, Health and Welfare and Property and Affairs. Health and Welfare LPAs enable those appointed (attorneys) to make decisions such as where you (the person making the LPA) should live, day-to-day care and consenting to, or refusing, medical treatment on the donor’s behalf. Property and Affairs LPAs enable attorneys to make decisions such as buying and selling property, closing, opening or operating bank accounts, claiming benefits and providing access to financial information. You may choose to make just one type of LPA, or both.
You can appoint more than one attorney under an LPA. If the elderly relative wishes to make an LPA appointing a family member who is about to move away as their attorney, it may therefore be desirable to appoint a second attorney who lives close by for example, a local family member, a trusted friend or a professional attorney. Provided the attorneys are appointed to act jointly and severally (rather than jointly), one attorney will be able to make a decision without the other. This could be advantageous if, for example, one attorney is unable to sign relevant forms or documents due to their geographical location.
If an individual has an elderly relative who has capacity to make an LPA and wishes to do so, the relative should approach a solicitor for further advice. If that individual relocates, and their elderly relative subsequently loses capacity but has not created an LPA, it will be necessary to make an application to the Court of Protection for a Deputy to be appointed. It is therefore advisable for an elderly relative to have an LPA in place so that they can make a choice about who should look after their affairs in the event that they lose capacity. The Court can appoint a family member, or a professional such as a solicitor, to be a Deputy. In the event that an elderly relative loses capacity, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.