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What is having mental capacity?

Having mental capacity is the ability to make a decision, whether it is an everyday decision such as what to wear, or a more important decision such as where to live. 


There are different ways of looking after someone’s affairs
 

Below are some typical scenarios you might be faced with when caring for someone. Click on each to see what options are available. 

They can make their own decisions but want help managing their money…

 


If the person you look after wants help managing their bank account, they could make a third party mandate with their bank. This means that they name a specific person (for example you as their carer), and this gives you the authority to manage the bank account.

They can request a third party mandate arrangement form from their bank or building society.

This is a document that tells your bank, building society or other account provider that they can accept instructions about your money from a specific named person.

Please note that if the person who has requested this loses their mental capacity (or ability to make decisions), the third party mandate will no longer be valid.


If the person you look after needs help to manage their benefits and there is not already a lasting power of attorney in place, you could apply to be their appointee.
 

This means that you become responsible for making and maintaining any benefit claims on behalf of the person you look after. 

For more information on appointees you can visit the GOV.UK website.


If the person you look after wants help managing their bank account and other financial affairs, they could grant an ordinary power of attorney to a specific person (for example you as their carer). 
 

If granted this, you would have the authority to deal with any financial affairs specified in the ordinary power of attorney. If the person you look after wants to grant an ordinary power of attorney, they could contact a local advice centre to see if they can help or they could contact a legal adviser.


If the person you look after is 18 or older and wants help managing their bank account and other financial affairs, both now and in the future (for when they are unable to make a decision), they could grant a lasting power of attorney for property and financial affairs to a specific person (for example you as their carer). 
 

If granted this, you would have the authority to deal with any financial affairs the lasting power of attorney specifies. This can be used as soon as it is registered, and can continue to be used if the person you look after becomes unable to make their own decisions (so if they lack mental capacity). See below for some further information on lasting power of attorneys. 

They can make their own decisions now, but want to make arrangements in case they are unable to in the future…

 


If the person you look after is 18 or older and can currently make their own decisions but wants to make plans in case they are unable to make decisions in the future, they could make a lasting power of attorney. This means that they appoint a specific person (for example you as their carer) to have the authority to make certain decisions on their behalf.

There are two types of lasting power of attorney: 

  • power of attorney for property and financial affairs – which covers things such as bank accounts, paying bills, collecting benefits or pensions and selling a home 
  • power of attorney for health and welfare – which covers things such as medical care and social care 

For more information about lasting power of attorneys, including how to make one, how to register one and the fees involved, you can view the GOV.UK  website. 

If the person you look after wants to grant a lasting power of attorney and wants some help with this, they could contact a local advice centre (see Advicelocal.uk) or a legal adviser for guidance. 

They are unable to make their own decisions and there’s no power of attorney in place…

 


If the person you look after is unable to make their own decisions and needs help to manage their benefits, you could apply to be their appointee (if there is not already a lasting power of attorney in place).
 

This means that you would become responsible for making and maintaining any benefit claims on their behalf. 

You could also contact all your service providers and see if you can be appointed as a spokesperson for your loved one.

For more information on appointees you can visit the GOV.UK website


If the person you look after is unable to make their own decisions and needs help to manage more than just their benefits, you could apply to become their court appointed deputy (if there is no lasting power of attorney already in place).

This means that if your application is successful you will have the authority to make certain decisions on their behalf. It is often referred to as a deputyship.
There are two types of court appointed deputy: 

  • court appointed deputy for property and financial affairs – which covers things such as bank accounts, paying bills, collecting benefits and pensions and selling a home 
  • court appointed deputy for personal welfare – which covers things such as medical care and social care. 

You can apply to be just one type of court appointed deputy or both types, but it is worth noting that it is less common for personal welfare court appointed deputy applications to be successful. 

For more information on court appointed deputies, including how to apply to become a court appointed deputy, who you need to notify about your application and the fees involved, you can visit the GOV.UK website.

If you want to apply to be a court appointed deputy and want some help with this, you could contact a local advice centre or a legal adviser for guidance. 


This toolkit offers guidance for parents and carers to make financial decisions on behalf of young people aged from 14 to 25 who may lack the ability to make decisions themselves.

The guide also provides guidance on how to prepare to make decisions from adulthood if the young person is under 18. 

See the toolkit (produced by the Ministry of Justice).

Click on our
carers' tips sheets

Getting power of attorney

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Using Services

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Health matters

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