If the person you want to help has lost mental capacity

If someone really can’t manage their own affairs, you can arrange to manage them yourself for them. You’ll usually be carefully monitored to make sure that you’re always acting in the person’s best interests, and you will be restricted with the types of financial decisions you can make – every case is different.

Before you can begin, you need to check if the person really has lost the ability to make their own decisions.

Checking if someone has lost mental capacity

In general, you can only take over managing someone’s money if they’ve lost mental capacity. The first thing to do is to check whether this is true.

You should check whether they can:

  • understand the kind of decisions they may need to make about their money
  • weigh up the pros and cons of a decision about their money
  • communicate with you to make their decision clear (even if it’s a blink of an eye or a squeeze of a hand)

If they can do these things, the law says they have the capacity to make their own decisions. The Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice gives more detailed guidance on how to assess someone’s ability to make decisions.

Find out more about the Mental Capacity Act and download the Code of Practice on the GOV.UK website.

If someone has mental capacity there are still ways you can help them manage their money or prepare for the future. Read more about this in our guide.

If you’re sure the person hasn’t got mental capacity

Top tip

Always check if the person has a power of attorney set up. If they do, it may save a lot of time and effort.

If you’re sure someone doesn’t have mental capacity, you can still get the right to manage their money for them, although you have to apply to a court to get this right. There are a few steps to follow to get this done.

Step 1 – Check for an existing power of attorney

The person may have set up a power of attorney already. Ask them, their family or their solicitor, and if they can’t tell you, you can check with the official body for where they live.

If you find there is a power of attorney already in place you should register it (if that’s needed) if you’re named as the attorney or contact the attorney if you’re not. The office you or the attorney contacts will tell you how.

Step 2 – Apply for the power to manage a person’s financial affairs where there is no existing power of attorney

If the person you want to help doesn’t already have a power of attorney in place, you need to make different arrangements. You’ll have to make a formal application to the right agency, and they’ll want to see proof that the person you’re applying for has lost mental capacity.

You can find instructions and paperwork for your application on these websites:

You will have to pay an application fee. It can take several months to get the paperwork properly sorted out.

To avoid getting confused by the language it’s important to know that you won’t be called an ‘attorney’ if you make this kind of application, although you’ll usually have the same power as an attorney to manage the financial affairs of the person who has lost mental capacity.

  • In England and Wales, you’ll be called a deputy.
  • In Scotland, you’ll be called a guardian.
  • In Northern Ireland, you’ll be called a controller.

Step 3 – Show the document to the person’s bank

Once you’ve completed the application process you’ll get an official document confirming that you’ve got the power to act.

You’ll need to show certified copies of the document (which have been copied by someone at a bank or solicitor’s office) to any financial organisations that you want to give instructions to – for example, the person’s bank or insurance company.

You can do this as and when you need to, but it’s a good idea to show the document to every organisation you want to deal with as soon as you get it. They will keep the details on file, which will save you time later on.

Step 4 – Manage the money according to the rules

When you manage money for another person in this way you must always:

  • make decisions in the person’s best interests
  • only make the decisions that the court says you can
  • take care in making your decisions

This kind of power over someone’s financial affairs can sometimes be abused, so the office that set it up will want to check now and then that everything’s legal and above board. This means you have to keep clear accounts and note down the reasons you’ve made particular decisions.

Find out more about becoming a deputy and your responsibilities on the GOV.UK website.