If only I had somehow managed to persuade my beloved mum to sign a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), I would not have spent the last three years of my life, becoming a lay expert on the Court of Protection.
I count myself fortunate and privileged to work in the field of acquired brain injury. Because of my work, I probably have more knowledge and understanding than the average person who at some point, has to consider the needs of their ageing parents. We never think we may need to consider issues of mental capacity, LPA and the Court of Protection for our own loved ones.
Even the extra knowledge and understanding I have, could not have prepared me for the minefield that lay ahead when my dear mum was Sectioned under the Mental Capacity Act and taken into care due to her diminishing capacity as a result of dementia. Her lack of capacity meant that this once highly intelligent woman, now lacked the insight to see that she could no longer care for herself, let alone the needs of my terminally ill father, who was declining week by week due to a rare stomach tumour.
My father, with some explanation, signed LPAs seven months before he passed away, giving my sister and I complete power, if needed, for both his financial and health & well-being needs. Although we never really had to manage his financial affairs as such, the LPA made things so much easier when it came to those final hours, and knowing in advance exactly what he wanted to happen.
Once mum went into care in April 2012, we started the tortuous dealings with the Court of Protection, so that we could manage her finances and make sure that her health and well-being needs were being met.
We made the application to the court in May 2012. Copious amounts of forms needed to be completed by hand (no online forms for families to access) and a fee of £400 that I had to find because at this point we had no access to her bank.
Due to Various administration failings by the Court of Protection, resulting in many hours of phone calls and numerous emails, we finally received an order from the court on 6th December 2012 appointing myself, my sister and my father as deputies, 7 months after submitting in the initial application forms.
In the interim we had accrued over £25,000 of costs, mostly care costs and the purchase of personal items and clothing for mum, all from our own finances (and we are by no means wealthy people!). With the order in place, we could now apply to the banks to access to mum’s finances.
Sadly, just three weeks after the order was made to appoint us as deputies, my father passed away. As well as having to deal with the grief of losing a much loved parent, once again we had to make an application to the Court of Protection to amend the original order for deputyship. This took a further two months to come through. By now, it was almost a year since mum had been taken in to care.
We soon learnt that banks do not know of or understand about Court of Protection orders. They have whole departments who look after clients with LPA’s, but know nothing about the Court of Protection – I can’t remember how many times I ended up in tears of frustration just trying to get accounts set up. We finally had access to funds and could pay mum’s bills in August 2013, some 16 months after she first went into care.
It’s now eighteen months since our father passed away, we are ready to sell our family home but once again we must pay a further £400 to apply to the Court of Protection for permission to sell it, as 50% of the property belongs to mum.
You’d hope that this next phase of selling the family home would end our need to apply to the Court of Protection. Sadly it does not, due to an error in mum’s Will, made in 1991, 50% of her estate (which she wanted to go to her grandchildren) will fall into an intestacy (and not be distributed by her Will) when she passes away. As a result, we have spent almost a year trying to get a statutory Will in place, via the Court of Protection, spending approximately £6,000 on legal and court fees in the process; most recently, having to appoint a barrister to represent us at a Court of Protection hearing, an additional cost of £1,500.
The other surprise is that where there is no LPA in place, another government organisation must be involved, alongside the Court of Protection – the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). The OPG are there to oversee and “support” lay deputies. This requires a further annual payment of around £350 and imposes the duty to produce annual reports on mum’s financial income and expenditure, with a narrative of key decisions that the deputies have made during the year. More time, which you just don’t have, when you have a relative in care.
This journey is far from over but would have been so different and so much easier if only we had got Mum to sign an LPA before she lost capacity.
(Contribution by Helen from Cheltenham)
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