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Looking after someone’s affairs

There may come a time when you may need to manage the affairs on behalf of the person you are looking after or start considering how to plan to do this in the future. 

There may come a time when you may need to look after the affairs of the person you are caring for or start considering how to plan to do this in the future. 

This could mean a number of things including: 

  • looking after their bank accounts, savings, investments, or other financial affairs 
  • buying and selling property on their behalf 
  • claiming and spending welfare benefits on their behalf 
  • deciding where they live 
  • making decisions about their day to day personal care or health care 

There are different ways of managing someone’s affairs. Which option is appropriate depends on whether the person you are looking after can currently make their own decisions. The ability to make decisions is called mental capacity.  

If a person lacks mental capacity, they may not be able to make decisions about certain things. 

Mental Capacity Act 

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is a law that protects people who cannot make decisions for themselves. These may be day to day decisions such as what to wear or what to eat, or major decisions about where to live. 

The act makes it clear who can take decisions, in which situations and how they should go about this. It also allows people to plan for a time when they are unable to make decisions in the future. 

People may be unable to make decisions for themselves for many reasons including: 

  • learning disability 
  • dementia 
  • mental health 
  • brain injury or stroke 

The NHS website has more information about the Mental Capacity Act. 

Who needs to know about the Act? 

Everyone needs to know about the Act. In particular, if you need support making decisions, are an unpaid or paid carer or want to plan for a time in the future where you may not have capacity. 

If you need support making decisions 

The act makes sure the person making a decision on your behalf act in your best interests.  

This means they must find out what you would have wanted. It also allows you to name those you want to make decisions for you in the future when you might lack capacity yourself. These arrangements are called ‘Lasting Powers of Attorney'. 

Making decisions about your health, welfare and finances leaflet (PDF 785KB)

If you are an unpaid carer 

The act will help you understand how and when you can act on behalf of someone who lacks capacity to make decisions and the safeguards and limitations if you are doing this.  

It says that you should be consulted by professionals when, for example, a doctor makes a decision about treatment for a family member who lacks capacity. 

Making decisions - a guide for family, friends and other unpaid carers (PDF 548KB) 

If you are a paid carer/professional 

The act provides a framework for assessing a person's mental capacity and determining their best interests if they lack capacity to make a decision.  

It provides safeguards and limitations for when you are working with someone who lacks the capacity to consent to receiving care or treatment. 

Making decisions - a guide for people who work in health/social care 

Who decides whether someone has capacity? 

Anyone can assess capacity.  

For everyday decisions, a relative or carer is the person most likely whereas a professional is more likely to formally assess when decisions are complex. For example, if the decision is about treatment, it may be a doctor or for a legal decision, it may be a solicitor. 

Visit GOV.UK for guidance on checking mental capacity.