Everyone should have a Power of Attorney. If someone loses the mental capacity to make decisions and/or becomes unable to communicate decisions, having a POA in place appointing a trusted person or people to act on his or her behalf is incredibly helpful for the granter of the POA and also for his or her family. Acting as an Attorney is a varied role, often with unexpected demands and delights.
I act as Continuing (Financial) and Welfare Attorney for a number of clients. It is a privilege to be trusted to support someone in whatever way is needed, especially as they grow older and less able to manage in the way that they did before. But it is not something to take on lightly; being an Attorney carries a big responsibility and can be challenging, time-consuming, and emotional. It is a proactive role, rather than a reactive one, and an Attorney has to take steps to make sure he or she knows the granter well, and is aware of when help may be needed. Equally, it is a reactive role ; you have to react and deal with whatever situation arises. An Attorney has to be willing to make sure that they know all the little things about the granter of the POA that could make all the difference to their quality of life if they have lost capacity, and to cope with whatever situations may arise in the future.
Two clients for whom I act as Attorney have no family and I visit them both every week. Here is a little of their stories, and how I support them.
Now 95 (the same age as The Queen, as she likes to remind me!), my client still lives at home, alone. The only time she has left the house in the last 2 years was to go to hospital in an ambulance. She has a cleaner for an hour every week (although not during lockdown), but no other help, apart from me. I haven’t been able to tempt her out, even for an ice cream or a run in the car, now that such things are allowed again; her world has shrunk but she is very content to be at home. We have had some really good conversations about the end of her life, and she wrote down, with very little prompting, a brief story of her life. I will be the person delivering the eulogy at her funeral, so I was glad, and she really enjoyed talking me through it and reminiscing. I do all of her grocery shopping for her, manage her finances, liaise with her doctors, and managed to persuade her to wear a Community Alarm Service pendant – but only after she had fallen and broken her hip! I do my best to spend enough time with her to simply sit and talk so that I really do know what decisions she would want me to make on her behalf if she were no longer able to tell me.
Another of my clients, now 85, has been living in a care home, for more than 3 years now. He had been in hospital for an extended period and I helped him to make the difficult decision to move into residential care instead of going home. One of my jobs was to arrange for his flat to be cleared and sold, and the advice and support of an experienced and sensitive professional valuer was incredibly helpful at that time; distilling the accumulation of a lifetime’s belongings into a small number of items that could be taken to the care home, with the remainder to be sold in a saleroom, was very hard. There have been spells in the past 16 months, during lockdown, when he was confined to his room for weeks at a time, and other periods when he has had limited options for moving about in his wing of the care home. At the start of the pandemic, there were a number of covid deaths in the home, and whilst staff have been wonderful, they have naturally been extremely strict about observing all the rules that keep their residents safe. We kept in touch with phone calls and ‘outside’ visits when permitted, and now planned ‘indoor’ visits are possible too. I manage his finances, shop for anything he needs, and generally make sure everything is running smoothly. He loves a bit of home-baking and I am always happy to take them some cake!
The longer I know both these clients, and other clients whose Attorney I am, the more I value the relationship I have with each of them and their willingness to allow me in to this chapter of their lives. Being an Attorney is a hands-on, challenging, sometimes frustrating, very varied, and incredibly satisfying role. I can honestly say that, for me, it is the best part of being a Private Client solicitor.
Hilary Peppiette is a Solicitor at Allingham & Co Solicitors. Allingham & Co provide an extensive range of legal services for all their private clients including wills, Powers of Attorney, Executries and Guardianship.
Hilary Peppiette | 0131 445 3024 | firstname.lastname@example.org