Family members of patients who are in intensive care with long Covid - such as Kate Garraway’s husband - are at risk of landing themselves on the wrong side of the law, according to a top lawyer.
That’s because if an individual loses the capacity to make decisions and a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is not in place, it prohibits the use of any bank account with their name on it.
This means that if a family member accesses an account in the patient’s name, or even a joint account this is not appropriate, according to Tracy Ashby, from leading law firm Wright Hassall.
The warning comes in light of Kate Garraway’s heart-breaking story of her husband Derek’s year-long battle with Covid, which has been made even more complicated by the lack of legal protection the couple had in place.
Kate was unable to access funds to manage her husband’s care or refinance her mortgage, and she has spoken about the financial issues she has faced being unable to access accounts in Derek’s name without a power of attorney.
An LPA is where an individual makes a legally-binding document to give someone they trust the authority to make decisions on their behalf if they no longer have the mental capacity to do so themselves. There are different types of power of attorney that cover different aspects of one’s life, such as financial decisions, and healthcare decisions.
Tracy Ashby, Head of Private Client at Wright Hassall, said: “The Covid pandemic has laid bare the additional devastating consequences that family members can be left in if legally-binding plans have not been put in place should the worst happen.
“Contrary to popular belief, one account holder is not automatically entitled to withdraw funds from a joint bank account if the other holder loses the right to make decisions.
“Banks say when both have ‘capacity’ both account holders authorise each other day to day, when one loses capacity that deemed authority can’t happen. The LPA prevents that being a problem.
“It’s also important to stress that just because you may know a person’s online banking details, it also does not give someone else the right to transfer funds for any reason.
“This is why it is paramount that couples and individuals make an LPA at the earliest opportunity to avoid stressful situations such as this during what is already an emotional time.
“If an LPA has not been made then the patient’s family members will either have to wait until the person in question recovers, or they will have to make an application to the Court of Protection, which can take up to 12 months in some instances.
“LPAs are more common amongst the older generation, but it is crucial that those in their 20s and 30s now give serious thought about what could happen in the near future as opposed to a relaxed, long-term mindset.”