Lindsays lawyer reveals some people have had to be helped while in hospital bed during pandemic as Power of Attorney Day highlights need for action
The coronavirus pandemic has proven a wake-up call for more Scots to get their personal affairs in order, a leading law firm says.
Lawyers at Lindsays have helped people in need complete documents from their hospital beds during the outbreak because they have not had a completed Power of Attorney (PoA) in place to secure their wishes should they no longer be able to make or action decisions themselves.
At the same time, the firm has recorded a sharp rise in the number of people looking to make arrangements so that their care and financial intentions are clear.
The number of PoA enquiries dealt with by Lindsays has more than doubled in the year to date – with interest rising three-fold since April as the potential consequences of Covid-19 became apparent.
Details have been revealed today (Wednesday, November 25) as part of Power of Attorney Day, which highlights the actions people can take to protect themselves and support their loved ones. The legal documents give one or more people authority to make decisions on an individual’s behalf.
Morag Yellowlees, a Partner in the Private Client team at Lindsays, which supports people setting up PoAs, said: “There is no doubt that Covid-19 has provided a wake-up call for people to ensure they have full and proper arrangements in place in the event that they become incapacitated.
“Clients have told us that because no-one knows how they will be affected if they catch coronavirus, they have realised it’s sensible to get plans in place, whether that be for themselves or their elderly parents. They want peace of mind that they are going to be looked after in a way of their choosing and to ease pressure on their loved ones.”
PoAs can be completed even during the pandemic, with the Law Society of Scotland advising on how documents can be signed and witnessed via video.
In cases where documents have not been completed before a person has taken ill in recent months, that has included them being signed from hospital beds.
Mrs Yellowlees added: “We have had occasions where elderly people have had unsigned draft Powers of Attorney, which we have had to work with them and their carers to have completed from hospital as they were undergoing treatment and have then needed to go into care.
“In those cases we have had to involve a doctor to make it clear that the patients involved have the necessary capacity to sign the documents.”
Power of Attorney Day – spearheaded by Solicitors for Older People Scotland with the support of Age UK – dispels many myths surrounding the documents while highlighting the difference they make.
Lindsays, which has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, is sharing those messages, including the fact that PoAs are not simply for older people or those who have lost capacity.
Mrs Yellowlees explained: “The welfare element of a PoA comes into play if you lose capacity and are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. This could happen at any age – for example, in the event of a serious accident.
“But a financial PoA can be used for convenience when you do still have capacity, under your instruction. For example, if you were selling your home and got stuck abroad at a crucial point during completion, your lawyer could step in.
“For small businesses and sole traders, a business PoA can ensure bills and salaries are paid and contracts signed if you are incapacitated or unable to access crucial data or bank accounts.”
Awareness of PoAs has grown in recent years, with many people now taking them out at the same time as drawing up their will or taking out financial policies.