When preparing for the future, most people are aware of the importance of having a Will to ensure that their loved ones are provided for once they are gone. Many people, however, fail to consider what would happen if they become unwell and unable to look after their own property and financial affairs or make decisions about their welfare whilst they are still very much alive.

Life expectancy in Scotland is higher than ever before, with men and women now living on average for 76.5 and 80.7 years respectively.[1]  The flipside of the longevity coin is that, as we live for longer, the likelihood of us suffering from frailty and/or an age related illness as a result increases.

In the UK alone, there are over 820,000 people living with dementia and the figure is expected to continue to rise rapidly.  In our Private Client practice we frequently see the profound effect dementia has not only on those diagnosed but the friends and family trying their very best to help out.  It is sobering to note that 42% of the UK population now have a friend or relative suffering from dementia. [2]

The practical challenges for the friends and family of someone with dementia are significantly greater if there is no Power of Attorney in place.

When someone loses mental capacity, if a Power of Attorney has not been granted, nobody has the automatic authority to deal with that person's finances or make decisions regarding his or her welfare.

From day-to-day matters like making sure the bills are paid to big decisions about care such as moving into a care home, a Power of Attorney ensures that someone appointed by the granter has the authority to act.

You can, however, only grant a Power of Attorney whilst you have the mental capacity to do so.  It cannot be put in place after the event of your loss of capacity.  Sadly, in many cases, by the time those involved realise that a Power of Attorney would be a good idea, it is too late.

If a Power of Attorney has not been granted, Drummond Miller's Private Client Team has considerable experience and expertise in advising on the options available.  Inevitably, however, in many cases the only solution will be an application to court for guardianship.  Such applications can be costly and will always take time - usually several months.  This can be very distressing for the friends and family of the person who has lost capacity, who simply wish to care for and help their loved one as best they possibly can.

So, the easiest advice that we can give our clients and anyone else who will listen, is make sure you grant a Power of Attorney.

If you would like to find out more about granting a Power of Attorney, please contact Charles Ogilvie on 0131 226 5151 or cogilvie@drummond-miller.co.uk.


Article by Charles Ogilvie and Georgina McBride.

[1] General Register Office for Scotland - News "Scottish Life Expectancy at its Highest Level Ever" ( http://gro-scotland.gov.uk/press/2014/scottish-life-expectancy-at-its-highest-ever-level.html)