Family Law

Heart-breaking story from TV’s Kate Garraway shows importance of lasting power of attorney

elderly couple holding hands

The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of planning for the future. It’s never an easy conversation to have with your loved ones, but putting arrangements in place for the worst-case scenario could protect you and your family later.

The subject was brought to national attention this week following the screening of ITV documentary Finding Derek, which revealed the struggles of Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway since her husband Derek Draper contracted COVID-19 in March 2020.

As well as dealing with her husband’s illness, and the impact on their family, Kate has had the added complication of Derek not having made a lasting power of attorney (LPA), leaving her unable to access bank accounts and other financial policies where Derek was the named holder.

Her experiences, played out in the programme, demonstrate the importance of putting an LPA in place as a safeguard should the worst happen.

What is an LPA?

There are two types of LPA: financial and health and welfare. An LPA is a document that gives another person the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you ever lacked the physical or mental capacity to do so yourself.

Drawing up a lasting power of attorney gives you the opportunity to decide who you would like to do this for you and to include any particular wishes that you may have or restrictions that you wish to stipulate. Those making an LPA must be at least 18 and have the mental capacity to do so, and the person or persons they nominate become their ‘attorney’.

A health and welfare LPA covers decisions about any medical care, decisions on whether you would receive life-sustaining treatments or decisions on moving to a care home but only if you were unable to make these choices on your own.

The financial LPA concerns decisions about the running of your bank accounts, handling any investments, paying bills, receiving benefits, pension payments or other sources of income and the sale of a home.

Why do I need an LPA?

As Kate’s story showed, a family can experience problems if a person does not have an LPA in place when they lose mental or physical capacity. The TV presenter has spoken in the past about the difficulties she has experienced through things like car insurance, bank accounts and phone contracts being set up in her husband’s name.

Without an LPA, a relative does not have any legal authority to make decisions about a person’s health or financial affairs. This means potentially being unable to access a bank account or make changes to insurance policies, for example, can cause great stress to the family on top of the health problems they are dealing with. Health decisions, too, are taken out of the family’s hands without an LPA having been made.

What is the difference between an LPA and a will? 

An LPA is valid during your lifetime, but once you pass away any will you may have made comes into effect. The attorney can be the same person as the executor of your will, but does have to be.

Of course, none of us ever want to think about dying or enduring serious illness, but having an LPA in place is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family should the worst happen. It can give you the peace of mind knowing that your loved ones can focus on dealing with your finances and making any health decision that may be required without having to struggle.

To discuss drawing up an LPA, contact Zoe Fleming, Head of Wills, Probate and Trusts, on 01257 237507 or email zfleming@marsdenrawsthorn.com

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