Losing the capacity to make decisions
If you're no longer able to make decisions for yourself - whether for some or all of the time - you are said to have lost mental capacity.
If you lose capacity and have made a Power of Attorney, then your appointed Attorney will make decisions on your behalf.
If there is no Power of Attorney, health professionals or others making decisions on your behalf have to follow legal guidelines that ensure they act in your best interests.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (England and Wales)
The aim of the Act is to make sure that every effort is made to include the individual in decision-making, and take into account their wishes, feelings, values and beliefs, including religious and cultural traditions.
This Act includes a code of practice for Attorneys, healthcare workers and others who support people who have lost the capacity to make their own decisions.
Find out more about The Mental Capacity Act 2005
Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986
The High Court is responsible for the management of the property and affairs of people in Northern Ireland who are incapable of managing their own financial affairs, under the provisions of Part VIII of the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986.
Find out more about Mental Health (Northern Ireland) order 1986
Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000
If an individual who has not made a Power of Attorney becomes incapable of making decisions, an application may be made (usually by a friend or family member, or a solicitor) to the local Sheriff Court for a Guardianship Order or intervention order.
The Court will grant powers that might otherwise be granted under a Welfare or Continuing Power of Attorney. You may need a solicitor to help you with the court order and to inform you about the costs involved.
People appointed under such orders have a duty to act for the benefit of the person the order relates to, and to provide a management plan and an annual account of their actions to the Public Guardian.
The Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland) also provides a useful Code of Conduct for people appointed by the court.