Helping someone make decisions

Some people are unable to carry out certain actions or make certain decisions alone (or for themselves), or are worried that this may be the case in the future.  This might be due to having a learning disability or a mental health problem such as dementia for example.

There are different ways of helping / managing someone else's affairs - the different methods are for different purposes and have differing levels of legal status.

Managing someone else's affairs can mean a number of things, including:

  • looking after their bank accounts, savings, investments or other financial affairs
  • buying and selling property on their behalf
  • claiming and spending welfare benefits on their behalf
  • deciding where they live
  • making decisions about their day-to-day personal care or healthcare   

Ways of helping with another's affairs

Through an agent

If you are unable to collect your benefits or tax credits you can appoint someone to collect them on your behalf.  The person you appoint is often referred to as an agent. 

If your benefits or tax credits are paid into your bank or building society account, contact the bank or building society to arrange for someone else to collect them.  If the money is paid into a post office card account and needs to be regularly collected by someone else, contact the post office and ask about arranging for someone else to collect it. 

Through an appointee

If you need help with claiming and dealing with welfare benefits or tax credits you can ask for someone else to be made an appointee.  They can only be an appointee if one of the following bodies has appointed them to act on your behalf:

  • A court of law
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

Lasting power of attorney (LPA)

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document which allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf.  You need to have capacity when you sign this document. The LPA replaced the 'Enduring Power of Attorney' in October 2007.

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney:  

  1. Property and Affairs LPA - this enables you to make decisions on someone else's behalf about their property and affairs when they are no longer able to do so. This can include paying bills, managing a bank account or selling property.
  2. Personal Welfare LPA - this enables you to make decisions on someone else's behalf about their health and personal welfare, such as giving consent to medical treatment or deciding where they should live.   

Having an LPA in place means that the person you appoint will not have to go through the Court of Protection to make decisions on your behalf if you lose the mental capacity to do this for yourself.

To arrange a Lasting Power of Attorney you need to go through an application process.  The relevant forms can be filled in without professional legal advice. 

However, if there are complicated details or things you are unsure about you may want to ask a solicitor to help you. The Lasting Power of Attorney has to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used and there is a registration fee. 

It can only be used once you are unable to make your own decisions - a medical professional or court of law will help to decide if you have lost the mental capacity to make your own decisions.  For full details please visit the DirectGov website.