Is one of your relatives struggling with mental capacity issues? If so, there are legal steps that can be taken to get orders in place so that others can make decisions when they cannot do so.

With an increasing ageing population, personal Enduring Powers of Attorney are becoming increasingly relevant to enable people to obtain help with their day-to-day lives and personal property when they find that they cannot manage these affairs themselves. These need to be put in place while the person has the mental capacity to do so.

If your loved one does not have Enduring Powers of Attorney in place and something happens to them which causes doubt as to their mental capacity, then there is a good chance that they may not be able to make decisions and perceive consequences of their decisions relating to their health, welfare or personal property.

The most common examples of someone losing their mental capacity is developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, suffering from a head injury or entering into a coma. This is  not a complete list, but signs to spot can be memory loss, disorientation or uncharacteristic decision-making.

If you have concerns that your loved one is suffering from these things, the first step is to take them to their doctor for an assessment and possibly referral to a specialist. The medical professional should complete a report after a series of cognitive tests. This will say in their opinion whether your loved one has any mental incapacity issues and whether these are total and permanent. If mental incapacity is established by the medical professional, it is recommended you see a lawyer to give you further advice.

You may then need to apply for orders from the Family Court The most common orders deal with management the person’s property (a Property Manager or Administrator), and  for a Welfare Guardian (for health and wellbeing).

Only one person at a time can be appointed as a Welfare Guardian but more than one can be appointed as a Property Manager or Administrator.

If your loved one needs help then getting orders in place will enable decisions to be made for their welfare and property so they are looked after.

Shaun Cousins