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Mental capacity and planning for the future

Ladies looking at paperwork

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 sets out a range of ways by which people can plan for a time when they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.

The following options will direct you to further information about these provisions, as well as other useful information to help you to plan for the future.

Lasting Power of Attorney

Lasting power of attorney

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that lets you (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf.

This gives you more control over what happens to you if you have an accident or an illness and can’t make your own decisions (you ‘lack mental capacity’).

You must be 18 or over and have mental capacity (the ability to make your own decisions) when you make your LPA.

You don’t need to live in the UK or be a British citizen.  There are two types of LPA:

  • health and welfare
  • property and financial affairs

You can choose to make one type or both.

There is no need to involve solicitors and you can make a lasting power of attorney (LPA) online or by using paper forms. 

Advance Decisions to Refuse treatment

Man and lady in hospital

An Advance Decision allows you to write down any treatments that you don’t want to have in the future, in case you later become unable to make or communicate decisions for yourself.

It will only be used if you can’t make or communicate a decision for yourself. The legal name is an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment, and it’s also sometimes called a ‘Living Will’ or an ‘Advance Directive’.

Advance Decisions are legally binding in England and Wales, as long as they meet certain requirements. This means that if a healthcare professional knows you’ve made an Advance Decision, they have to follow it. If they ignore an Advance Decision then they could be taken to court.

Advance Statement

Father and son chatting

An Advance Statement allows you to record your wishes, feelings, beliefs and values in case you later become unwell and need care or medical treatment.

It provides a space for you to write down anything that’s important to you in relation to your health and wellbeing. For example, you can use it to explain how you’d like to be cared for or to detail any values or beliefs that inform the decisions you make. It gives those around you, such as your family, carers, and healthcare team, a clear idea of what you want if you can’t communicate this yourself.

An Advance Statement helps to make sure that, if you lack capacity to make and communicate a decision, your wishes are known and can be followed. It helps the people involved in your care to understand your wishes if you can’t make decisions for yourself.

You can find out more on the My Decisions website.

Deputies: make decisions for someone who lacks capacity

Young woman with older man

You can apply to become someone’s deputy if they ‘lack mental capacity’. This means they cannot make a decision for themselves at the time it needs to be made. They may still be able to make decisions for themselves at certain times.

People may lack mental capacity because, for example:

  • they’ve had a serious brain injury or illness
  • they have dementia
  • they have severe learning disabilities

As a deputy, you’ll be authorised by the Court of Protection to make decisions on their behalf.

There are two types of deputy.

  • Property and financial affairs deputy - You’ll do things like pay the person’s bills or organise their pension.
  • Personal welfare deputy - You’ll make decisions about medical treatment and how someone is looked after.

Find out more about becoming a deputy at www.gov.uk .

Become an appointee for someone claiming benefits

Young woman with older man

You can apply for the right to deal with the benefits of someone who cannot manage their own affairs because they lack the capacity to do so or are severely disabled.

To find out more visit the Department for Work and Pensions Website.

Wills and inheritance tax

Family writing a will

Your will lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.  If you make a will you can also make sure you don’t pay more Inheritance Tax than you need to.

You can write your will yourself, but you should get advice if your will isn’t straightforward. You need to get your will formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.

If you want to update your will, you need to make an official alteration (called a ‘codicil’) or make a new will.

If you die without a will, the law says who gets what.

The Government website 'making a will' is a good source of infomation.

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