The Kate Garraway story that brought home the reality of planning ahead
If you were one of many who turned in to Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway's heart-breaking story about her husband's battle with Coronavirus, like me, you were probably sympathising with Kate and admiring her for her honesty. However, I think this has made us think about the need to plan ahead and about our own circumstances and how we would cope in similar circumstances.
"Finding Derek'' aired on ITV on Tuesday night. It centred on Garraway's husband, filmmaker Derek Draper, who was struck with Covid-19 in March last year. Since then, she has bravely spoken about the emotional turmoil and heartbreak of seeing her husband's condition worsen, before being placed on a ventilator, where he still remains today in intensive care.
One of the most poignant points for me, was also a very familiar one. I've written many blogs about how our attitudes towards death are preventing us from planning for it and it causes nothing but heartache. I've also seen how much easier it is for families when they plan ahead and have legal documentation in place.
As Kate Garraway's heart-breaking story so clearly demonstrates, we don't always get the opportunity to plan for sudden incapacity, illness - or even death. The lack of paperwork in Kate's case has sadly seen her unable to access funds to manage her husband's care, or refinance her mortgage. She was even without the legal right to see his medical notes due to data protection. This is why it is even more important for us all to think about these issues as we hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Many people feel those "death documents" are too morbid, that we are too busy living lives to the full without really giving much thought to what happens at the end of it. I'm more likely to hear heartbroken families tell me "they never gave it much thought" or that "they wouldn't be here to sort it out."
According to research by the Solicitors For the Elderly (SFE), 65% of us think our next of kin will make medical and care decisions for us - and whilst this may seem fair, in reality, it is not that simple, unless a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is in place.
LPAs are a legal document nominating an individual to look after your affairs if you suddenly become ill or mentally incapacitated. This individual is able to access bank accounts or other financial information, enabling them to pay bills, mortgage or rent payments on your behalf.
A Health and Welfare LPA slightly differs, in that it enables someone to act on your behalf in relation to specific medical treatment or healthcare you may wish to receive.
During the pandemic there was a rise in the number of enquiries made about LPAs, but only 22% of people in the UK actually have one, say the SFE.
If the Finding Derek documentary and with all of Kate's brave candidness tells us anything, it's that planning is the only solution. Specialist lawyers, including us here at Downs Solicitors, are very experienced in navigating the law so that when it comes to making crucial, complex and difficult decisions, the way forward can become much clearer.
If you would like any further information relating to an LPA, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.