Armed forces must make a power of attorney

by Daniel Jones

Service personnel must ensure that they make a will and have a Lasting Power of Attorney document in place, according to John Glen, Conservative MP for Salisbury.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he stressed the danger facing members of the armed forces and the lack of guidance they are given on preparing for the "awful reality" of death or serious injury.

"If the worst happens, it is extremely important to ensure that the right processes are in place and to make certain that the wishes of those who have been killed or wounded are carried out," he said.

All armed forces personnel are advised in pre-deployment briefings to make a will. Unfortunately, according to Mr Glen, no advice is given on making a will and there is no compulsion to do so.

The MP added that mental capacity as the result of injury throws up additional problems that are not covered by a will.

"In reality, members of the armed forces would need to have a legal power of attorney document to be used in those circumstances," he explained, adding that it must be registered before the mental incapacity happens to make it valid.

"Many complicating factors conspire to mean that in many cases, our service personnel may not be properly legally protected in such situations," Mr Glen continued. He noted that making a will is often the last thing on soldiers' minds before they go to war, while many wrongly believe that a will is sufficient in all circumstances, including mental incapacity.

"The consequence of not having a legal power of attorney document can be far-reaching and cause enormous problems for those left behind," the MP stressed.

Figures highlight the scope of the problem. The period between the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and the end of 2005 saw ten British military personnel seriously or very seriously injured. Between 2006 and the end of October, 530 service men and women were classed as seriously or very seriously injured, according to Ministry of Defence figures. Since the beginning of the conflict, a total of 389 British military personnel have lost their lives.

Published on: November 23, 2011

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