There has beenÂ a huge rise in the number of lasting powers of attorney set up, new figures show, as dementia and Alzheimerâ€™s become theÂ biggest cause of death for the first time.
Power of attorney arrangements allow an individual’sÂ financial and health affairs to be looked after by someone else, the attorney, if they lose mental capacity in the future.
Information released under a Freedom of Information requestÂ show that in 2015, 441,500Â power of attorneyÂ arrangements were set-up, compared to just 36,000 during 2008. Up to August this year, there have already been 300,000 registrations.
In total just under two million â€œlastingâ€ agreements have been registered since 2008, when they replaced â€œenduringâ€ power of attorneys, amid concerns that the rules were too easy to abuse.
There are two types of agreement â€“ one covering finances and property, and another for health and welfare. Finance and property is far more popular, in 2015 there were 134,311 moreÂ of these arrangements established.
The sharp rise in new agreementsÂ – which are set up on average when the donor is 75 â€“ comes as the Office for National StatisticsÂ reveals deaths from dementia and Alzheimerâ€™sÂ jumped by a fifth last year.
They accounted for almost one in eight deaths in 2015 â€“ a total of 61,686 people â€“ overtaking heart disease as Britainâ€™s biggest killer.
Rachael Griffin, of Old Mutual Wealth, a pension company that filed theÂ Freedom of Information request to get the data from the Ministry of Justice, warned many people were still exposed.
â€œThere are still many more people who donâ€™t appoint a power of attorney,â€Â she said.
â€œAlthough it is possible for someone to take control of your financial or welfare decisions after an individual becomes mentally incapable, this can be a lengthy and complicated process with extra cost, which can cause distress at an already difficult time.â€
Without power of attorney, friends and family have to retrospectively apply to the Court of Protection and prove why they should assume responsibility. This process incurs courtÂ fees and can take up to 16 weeks, leaving money locked into accounts until a decision is made.
To set up a power of attorney, the donor needs to fill in a set of forms from the Office of the Public Attorney. Each document â€“ one of each type of arrangement â€“ costs Â£110 to register, so a couple who want both types wouldÂ pay Â£440.
The forms must be signed by the donor, the attorney and a â€œcertificate providerâ€ â€“ someone the donor has known for two years or a professional, such as a doctor or lawyer.
You can apply yourself online, or a solicitor will typically charge around Â£1,000 to help you. Those on incomes below Â£12,000 a year or on some benefits may qualify for a discount.
Last year the average turnaround time for applications was 39 days.
Creating an agreement with a lawyer should cost a few hundred pounds. There are two types of attorney â€“ a health and welfare attorney, who can make decisions about care, and a financial attorney, who can manage finances.
If youâ€™re acting as an attorney for someone, there are three important things to think about:
Nearest tube: Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
Nearest Railway Station: Elephant & Castle
Buses from Elephant and Castle: ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45