Dementia Legal Issues

Dementia Legal Issues

This page contains basic information about

  • collecting benefits on someone’s behalf,
  • Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA),
  • Court of Protection (COP),
  • Office of the Public Guardian (OPG),
  • making a will
  • driving safely and
  • obtaining travel insurance for holidays

with links to appropriate organisations and publications.

Most straight forward tasks can usually be taken-over by a carer, paying bills and collecting pensions etc. You can get a form from your local JobCentre Plus which lets you collect pensions and benefits on behalf of someone else, as their Appointee. You will be checked to validate your suitability for the role.

It is always advisable to agree on who will be making any financial and legal decisions as early on as possible after a diagnosis of dementia has been made. This allows the person with dementia to decide who will make important decisions on their behalf when they can no longer tell people what they want to have happen.

English law allows two ways for a person to take charge of another person’s legal affairs. The first is using a Lasting Power of Attorney the second is using the Court of Protection.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a document which must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian when a person is still mentally capable. It is only used when this person is deemed to no longer be capable of making their own decisions. The LPA Act 1985 allows the appointment of an Attorney to take control of the LPA in the event that a person becomes mentally incapable. Contact The Office of the Public Guardian on 0300 456 0300.

If there isn’t an LPA in place then the Court of Protection can appoint someone to oversee a person’s financial affairs if that person is no longer mentally capable of doing so. This person could be a solicitor, a family member or the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). There are solicitors who specialise in providing legal advice for older people, their family and their carers.

The Office of the Public Guardian was established in 2007 to protect people who lack mental capacity and to support Attorneys of an LPA in carrying out their duties. The option of using the Court of Protection should be a last resort when no other provision has been made. It can be complicated and costly by comparison to using an LPA so preparation is advisable. The role of the Office of the Public Guardian is to provide regulation and supervision, whilst the Court of Protection makes decisions.

Making a will at any age is always advisable and it should be amended when circumstances change. A person with dementia can still make a will or make changes to an existing one if they can show that they are capable of doing so. Close friends and family members may consider changing their own wills if they think that assets may be passed onto a person who has dementia and used to fund their care. An Age UK fact sheet Making Your Will is available for you to download.

Any legal or financial arrangements must be made with great care and the expert advice of a qualified person.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to provide financial and legal advice. Community Legal Advice is a free, confidential and impartial advice service paid for by legal aid.

Many people who have had a diagnosis of dementia wonder if they are still able to drive. Being given a diagnosis does not automatically exclude a person with dementia from driving. There is, however a legal obligation to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and your car insurance company. If you decide to stop driving you must return your licence to the DVLA. If you want to continue driving the DVLA may ask consent from you to contact your doctor for a medical report. The DVLA provides information on current medical standards of fitness to drive.

There are various ways to get travel insurance. You could discuss your options with your regular travel insurance company, it may make specific provisions for medical conditions including dementia. Alzheimer’s Society produces a comprehensive fact sheet about travelling and going on holiday. It can also provide specialist insurance cover on line or you can call 01603 828254. Age UK also provides insurance cover on line or contact 0845 6003348.

Tourism for All is a specialist organisation which is dedicated to making holidays accessible for everyone.

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