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Law firm's concern over number of elderly people with no control over later-life decisions

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Rachel SaundersRachel SaundersEighty-six percent of people in the South West are currently living with no control over important later-life decisions around their housing, assets, heath, and care, according to a new report by SFE Solicitors for the Elderly, the national organisation representing legal professionals such as Forrester Sylvester Mackett Solicitors, specialising in helping people plan for later life.

The report reveals that whilst 49 percent of people in the South West have a will in place to manage their affairs after death, only eight percent have a lasting power of attorney in place to safeguard their wishes in the event they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves, due to accident or illness like dementia.

Eighty-two percent want a family member or friend to make important decisions on their behalf, in the event of illness or an accident. However, few are aware that without an LPA in place, any individuals’ affairs, such as their end-of-life wishes and health treatments, can be left in the hands of third party solicitors, social workers, medical doctors, or the British courts.

Even the minority of people that have taken steps to plan ahead for later life may still be at risk, due to poor quality legal advice and invalid documents. Sixty-five percent of the people with LPAs in place did not use experts or legal guidance, instead taking a gamble using online resources, non-legal advisers, or off-the-shelf kits.

Rachel Saunders, an SFE member from Forrester Sylvester Mackett Solicitors, which has offices in Chippenham, Malmesbury, Trowbridge, Warminster and Swindon, said: “Gone are the days when you could phone the bank and they would know you and your family and they would be happy talk to you about an elderly relative or friend.

“These days you need passwords, security questions, pin codes and then, if you are not the account holder, a brick wall goes up and no one will speak to you. By making an LPA you ensure that the person you chose can legally act on your behalf. It can give your family real peace of mind at a time when they often have a lot to deal with”.

Lakshmi Turner, chief executive of SFE, said: “Most people assume that if they suffer an illness or accident, their next of kin will be responsible for vital decisions. The reality is starkly different – loved ones may not be able to make a decision on your behalf unless you have an LPA in place.

An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have. If you have children, own a home, or have views on your preferred health treatment, we urge you to go to an expert to get the right advice.”

SFE is an independent, national organisation of professionals, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, committed to providing the highest quality of legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

To download the report ‘Who will decide for you when you cant?’ go to: http://www.sfe.legal