There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to reach to over one million by 2025. This will soar to two million by 2051.
Yet many people are failing to ensure they are prepared for the possibility, leaving families to apply to the Court of Protection to help their loved one at a time of need.
However, that can be a complex affair - here Julie Burn, Lead Partner of FBC Manby Bowdler’s Wills, Probate & Lifetime Planning Team and one of the leading Court of Protection specialists in the West Midlands, explains how legal advice can help:
The rising rate of dementia is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of our generation. While many people are taking extra steps to protect themselves from developing the disease – keeping active and living healthier lifestyles, for example - not enough people are preparing their personal affairs to prevent any future illness affecting decisions on their finances or future care.
Drawing up a Lasting Power of Attorney is one of the most sensible things – this involves appointing a loved one or close friend to act for you if you become unable to manage your own affairs.
But if you don’t have an LPA, as many people don’t, the Court of Protection can appoint a deputy to act for you.
The Court of Protection is something people are often blissfully unaware of until they need to use it. It was created under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and has jurisdiction over the property, financial affairs and personal welfare of people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
Dealing with the Court of Protection can be daunting and confusing for people who are unfamiliar with its workings but statistics show that more and more people have to use its services.
Between January and March 2017, it made 8,911 orders under the Mental Capacity Act, a 36 per cent increase on the same quarter in 2016. Almost half (48 per cent) of the orders related to the appointment of a deputy for property and affairs.
A family member or friend can apply to the court to act as your deputy or a lawyer can be a professional deputy for you if no-one is able to act in that capacity..
And it's not just people with dementia who may need a deputy – that's why we work closely with our clinical negligence and serious injury and community care teams.
My colleagues and I have acted for many people over the years and we understand how distressing and difficult this process can be, at a time that is often emotionally difficult too.
We work closely with our clients to ensure they remain involved in the decision making process and understand what is being done on their behalf.
Having a professional adviser as deputy helps relieve family and friends of some of the burden and they can then focus on their caring role. This can be especially appropriate when following a serious accident a large compensation award needs to be managed and decisions on spending to adapt or purchase property need to be made.
FBC Manby Bowdler’s Court of Protection Team can be contacted on 01902 578000 or via firstname.lastname@example.org. The team can also advise on lasting powers of attorney which would avoid the need for a Deputyship in the event of a person losing mental capacity.