The Office of the Public Guardian recorded a 24.6% drop in applications to register Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) and Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) in 2020-21, as social distancing measures stopped people from progressing with their applications.
Power of Attorney lets you grant someone else the legal power to make decisions about your finances and healthcare, if you lose the mental capacity to make these yourself.
There can be serious repercussions to not having this critical document in place when a serious illness strikes, so the fall in registrations - down from 917,553 the previous year to 691,746 - is worrying.
You can only register it while you still have mental capacity - after that, it's too late. So it's important to act sooner rather than later. Here, we outline the main benefits of getting Power of Attorney sorted.
If you're suddenly hospitalised, urgent decisions may need to be made about your medical treatment or care - some of them life changing.
With a Power of Attorney in place, you can be more confident that the decisions made will reflect your wishes. For your loved ones, it will also make these decisions quicker and easier.
Imagine that you were the breadwinner for the family and you became incapacitated. It's likely that your partner and children would need urgent access to your bank accounts to pay essential bills, such as energy, water, mobile phone and broadband, council tax, rent or mortgage payments.
In the long term, they would also need the authority to make big financial decisions such as selling your home.
An LPA protects your loved ones from entering a legal limbo where they can't make these crucial decisions about money.
Power of Attorney gives you peace of mind that someone you know and trust is in charge of your affairs. You can choose anyone as long as they're over the age of 18, not bankrupt and they understand the responsibility that they're taking on.
Without this in place, it's left up to the courts to determine who you should make financial and medical decisions on your behalf. There's a risk that they will give that power to a solicitor or an accountant instead of a loved one or a relative who you wouldn't choose yourself.
If you're no longer able to make financial decisions for yourself, this could makeyou an easy target for fraudsters.
Having an Lasting Power of Attorney in place means that someone is there to protect you from making unwise decisions that might not be in your best interests.
Perhaps there's a specific care home you'd like to go to, or you're committed to ethical investing, or you want to make a contribution to your children's university fees, even if you've lost capacity.
If so, you can spell this out in your Power of Attorney documents. You can leave your wishes as a preference (what you'd ideally like to happen, if the attorney is presented with a choice) or an instruction (which is legally binding).
Without power of attorney, your loved ones will have to apply for a deputyship at the Court of Protection.
It costs £365 to apply, plus other fees. Registering a deputyship also takes much longer than registering Power of Attorney. So, by getting Power of Attorney sorted, you can save your loved ones a lot of grief down the line.