Making financial decisions on someone else's behalf
You may need to make financial decisions on someone else's behalf and you may need support and guidance to be able to do this.
When you can manage someone else's finances
You must have legal authority to manage someone else's money and make decisions on their behalf. Being the next of kin does not give you the legal authority to make decisions or manage another adult's finances and you could be acting unlawfully.
The types of legal authority:
- Lasting Power of Attorney for Property & Finance and Health & Welfare
- Deputy awarded by a court when the person lacks mental capacity
- Appointee awarded by the Department for Works and Pensions to manage someone’s benefits only
Plan for the future with a lasting power of attorney
We know that it’s hard to think about someone having to make decisions for us when we get older, but it always helps to plan ahead to make sure that you ensure those who you trust are ready and able to look after your finances, care and property affairs in the event you are unable to do so in the future.
It is important that you choose who you wish to represent you whilst you are still able to make decisions for yourself.
Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. You can choose to appoint one or more people to act for you. There are two types – one covers decisions about your property and financial affairs and the other covers decisions about your health and welfare.
You can only set up a lasting power of attorney while you still have mental capacity and it can only be used (unless stated otherwise) when you lack mental capacity.
A lasting power of attorney can only be used after it has been registered and sealed by the Office of the Public Guardian.
Once your LPAs are registered, you will have peace of mind in knowing that they are legally appointed and trusted individuals who can safeguard and protect your interests.
Should an unfortunate event happen later, your spouse, children and relatives do not have to face the complications of a deputyship application nor manage the ongoing legal requirements.
You can apply and set up lasting power of attorney for yourself, you do not need a solicitor to do this for you. Further information about power of attorney on the gov.uk website.
An appointee is awarded by the Department for Works and Pensions and looks after and manages someone else's benefits, such as:
- Universal Credit
- State pension
- Pension Credit
- Attendance Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Employment Support Allowance and
- other benefits
A DWP Appointee can only manage someone’s benefits and cannot deal with any other financial matters.
It is free to become an Appointee. To do so will need to complete a BF56 form at an interview with DWP. Find out more about becoming an appointee at GOV.UK.
If you are going to take on the responsibility of managing a person's finances that doesn't have mental capacity and they do not have a registered lasting power of attorney, you will need to apply to be their deputy. This is awarded through the courts and can be a lengthy process with costs involved.
This applies in all cases where someone lacks mental capacity and has not made prior arrangements. A deputy is someone appointed to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. They can be a:
- close friend
- close relative
- professional, like an accountant or a solicitor
- the Local Authority
What is Mental Capacity
Mental capacity means the ability to make or communicate specific decisions at the time they need to be made. To have mental capacity you must understand the decision you need to make, why you need to make it, and the likely outcome of your decision.
Some people will be able to make decisions about some things but not others. For example, they may be able to decide what to buy for dinner, but be unable to understand and arrange their home insurance. Alternatively, their ability to make decisions may change from day to day.
Needing more time to understand or communicate doesn’t mean you lack mental capacity. For example, having dementia doesn't necessarily mean that someone is unable to make any decisions for themselves.
Where someone is having difficulty communicating a decision, an attempt should always be made to overcome those difficulties and help the person decide for themselves.
What happens if the person does not have mental capacity?
If the person does not have the mental capacity, you will need to get consent from:
- the Department of Works and Pensions if you only need access to their benefits or
- the Court of Protection if the person has other property and assets
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 applies to anyone:
- aged over 16
- in England and Wales
- who lacks the capacity to make decisions about their life
It affects anyone who works with or for these people, including:
- health and social care professionals
It covers all major decisions such as:
- social care
- medical treatment
- research and
- everyday arrangements