The importance of a lasting power of attorney in the farming community

6th June 2023

If you’re part of the farming community, you’ll have heard the saying “farmers never retire.” This makes it all the more important for those in the community to shield themselves, their family and their business from any difficulties that may arise. These difficulties could include an unexpected medical condition or unfortunate accident which may leave you unable to make decisions about your farm or business.

One such shield against future difficulties that can be prepared for these events is a Lasting Power of Attorney (‘LPA’). An LPA is a document that enables someone, known as “the donor” to give authority to another person, known as “the attorney”, to make decisions on their behalf. These documents can cover decisions for property and financial affairs as well as health and welfare matters. This means that should you be unable to make decisions for yourself, someone will be able to decide what happens to your outbuildings and machinery, as well as your finances, if the need arose.

However, if you don’t have an LPA in place and you lose capacity (that is, the ability to make decisions for themselves), an application to the Court of Protection will be required to appoint a deputy, which is a costly and protracted process and in many cases the deputy may not be who you would have chosen.

If this is the case, you may be left asking questions about who will run the farm if you’re not able to. Keeping the business running while ensuring a steady line of produce, being able to pay your staff and meeting supply demands are the main focal points in the event of incapacity.

An LPA will provide peace of mind to your family, business partner(s) if you have any, and business contacts. It will also provide for stability and assurance of the running of the farm during what can be an emotional time for those involved in keeping your agricultural business going. It is vital to consider who is appointed to assist with day-to-day tasks to ensure things are carried out as you would like in relation to all aspects of your business. Building up a successful agricultural business takes time, effort and love – in the event you aren’t able to make decisions on how things are run, you’ll want to be assured that your wishes are being followed.

It is advisable to have someone who understands your farming business and how it operates as the person you appoint to make decisions on your behalf. This could be a close member of your family who has worked on the farm, a business partner who has worked with you for many years, or someone who understands and works in the wider agricultural community. This can be achieved with the preparation of a property and financial affairs LPA – which can be used once registered at the Office of the Public Guardian and in the event of a loss of capacity.

You can also put in place a health and welfare LPA which can only be used once you have lost capacity. A health and welfare LPA allows an attorney to make decisions about such matters as life-sustaining treatment, personal care and medical care.

Farmers face many risks to their health by being involved within the agricultural industry. The annual average rate of risk over the last five years is around 21 times as high as the ‘all-industry’ rate. Therefore, having a health and welfare LPA will protect you in the event you lose capacity.

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