What is the Mental Capacity Act?
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) safeguards and empowers those who may not be able to make their own decisions. Capacity is the ability of a person to make decisions for themselves that may have legal consequences that could also affect others. Before the Act, the Attorney could make all decisions without much consultation. The MCA completely changed this. The act ensures that you must involve the person as much as possible.
The MCA states that a person is unable to make a decision if they can’t do one of the following: understand information relevant to a decision; retain that information long enough to make the decision; use or weigh that information; or communicate the decision.
One of the key points within the Act is ensuring decisions made on behalf of the person are in their ‘Best Interest’. The act actually provides a checklist, which must be used when making a decision. Once the decision maker has considered all applicable information and each point on the checklist, they must come to a decision that is in the person’s best interest. This is then signed and kept on file.
There is regulation and visits in place if the person has a high net worth or if there are concerns about the decisions being made. If you have been appointed as a deputy, you will need to make reports once a year (deputy declaration form) to the Office of Public Guardian – this is to make sure you’re acting in the best interests of the person.
With an aging population (by 2050 1 in 4 of the population will be 65 and over), it is important that we prepare for the implications of this in relation to the MCA. Ageing is by no means an illness but it does come with its own challenges that we must address- especially from a legal perspective. This includes dealing with important areas like Wills, Lasting Power of Attorney and long term financial planning. A main worry for many older people is losing their independence and what will happen should they lose capacity to make decisions about their health and money. The MCA is there to help put your concerns at ease.
The best way to feel secure about your and your family’s future is to plan ahead and be prepared. To do this you should seek qualified and experienced advice. We need to remember that ‘later life’ actually presents us with exciting opportunities. Whether that is trying a new career path, discovering an unusual hobby or simply having more time to spend with family and friends. By allowing us to help, you will be unburdened and can get on with enjoying your later years!