The family of Formula 1 racing legend Michael Schumacher have this week taken the decision to limit public updates on his condition. Schumacher, a seven time world champion, suffered an accident whilst skiing on holiday with his family in late December and has been in an induced coma ever since.
Schumacher's family are no doubt being guided by medical experts as to the appropriate actions to take regarding his medical care. However, Schumacher may reach a stage in his recovery where there is conflicting advice between medical experts, or there are different options as to how to treat him.
This has the potential to cause a dispute between family members as to what the appropriate action is for them to take at what is no doubt already an incredibly difficult and distressing time, and where all parties want to do what they each think to be the appropriate action for him. Schumacher himself may have had his own views on treatment and the actions he would want family members to take in certain scenarios.
In the UK you can appoint someone as your attorney, at a time when you do have mental capacity, to make decisions on your Health and Welfare via a Lasting Power of Attorney in the event that you lose the capacity to make certain decisions. Some of the benefits of making a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare are as follows:
¢ Provides certainty that the person that you want to make decisions on your behalf is the person making those decisions
¢ You can provide your attorney with guidance on certain aspects of treatment e.g. a Jehovah Witness may wish to reject the use of blood transfusions due to their religious beliefs
¢ You can make a decision in advance as to whether your attorney is to have the ability to make decisions on life-sustaining treatment
As one of the world's most decorated sportsmen, Schumacher will have accumulated vast wealth throughout his career.
However, in the UK, if his assets were not held in joint names with his wife then she would not have automatic access to them whilst he was in a coma. Such a scenario can leave a family in financial difficulty, particularly if the majority of assets are held in the name of one spouse/partner.
By creating a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs at a time when the person does have mental capacity, that person can appoint an attorney to make financial decisions on their behalf in the event that they do lose capacity. This is exceptionally important and can be used to ensure that bills, medical expenses and other financial obligations continue to be met whilst the person is without capacity.
At just 45, in good health, and having left the dangers of Formula 1 behind him, Schumacher could surely not have imagined he would be in a position where he wasn't able to make decisions for himself until decades from now.
If it can happen to Michael Schumacher, it could happen to anyone, and it goes to highlight the value of putting in place Lasting Powers of Attorney at the earliest opportunity, both for your own peace of mind and for protecting your loved ones.