Who will pay my dad’s bills if he is unable to?
Q: My father has recently been diagnosed with early onset dementia. My brother and I have been very supportive, but this news has been devastating for us all. I know I need to get my dad’s affairs in order, but I’m not too sure where to start. Is it possible for him to appoint someone to make decisions on his behalf? My father doesn’t pay a mortgage but he lives in his own home and has bills to pay. Could we pay those for him and recoup the costs somehow?
A:Firstly, I am very sorry to hear of your father’s diagnosis, but you are doing the right thing by thinking about practical next steps. It is important you act as quickly as possible, as it could become difficult to secure signatures for any legal documentation if your father is lacking mental capacity. It seems as though you are early on in the diagnosis, but you may still need a countersignature from your father’s GP on any legal paperwork to verify any terms in the eyes of the law that your father was fully aware of anything he was signing.
In terms of who can pay his bills, the best thing to do is draw up an LPA, or Lasting Power of Attorney. This is a legal document allowing your father to appoint one or more people (also called an Attorney) to make decisions on his behalf should the time come that he is unable to do so. It’s an essential step to ensure his wishes are carried out.
You should talk to your father, and your brother too, about what your father’s wishes are. He may just appoint one of you as attorney, but you and your brother must be in agreement as to who that is. If your father appoints you both, then you and your brother will need to be jointly responsible for everything - so you might want to think about any logistics associated with this. What happens if any paperwork requires countersigning by you or your brother, but you both live in different areas of the country?
The attorney or attorneys will be able to access your father’s bank account and pay bills on his behalf. But, it is important you also try and find out about any other assets your father might have. These days, it can be anything from social media profiles to online lottery accounts - anything concerning finances and accessing your dad’s money will need to be agreed in writing and signed with the full understanding of what all parties are entering into - hence why it is important your father is of sound mind and his GP is satisfied of that.
An LPA can also outline any medical treatment your father may wish to receive, so it is important you and your brother talk about this with your father too. This could include things like any alternative treatments or remedies, as well as any wishes for resuscitation should your father become extremely ill.
In terms of who should be appointed, again this is a conversation you need to open up between your father and your brother. Usually, people want to nominate their children, but it’s important to be sure your circumstances and personal skills are conducive to carrying out duties as an attorney.
How good are you at managing your own money? How far away do you and your brother live from your father? What availability do you think you will both have and time for your father, especially if you have busy full time jobs and/or children to care for? These are all considerations you might want to raise with your father and your brother when it comes to deciding who should have Lasting Power of Attorney.
You might also want to think about any care your father may need in later life. You say at the moment he lives in his own home, but there might come a time when he will need to be placed in a care home. Again, you may need access to his finances, or be able to sell his house in order to fund that care home, or any care he will need to receive later on.
It’s important you get the right advice and Downs Solicitors can help. If you would like to receive more information about LPAs, wills or any other aspect of estate planning, contact the Private Client team to see how we can help.