COUPLES are being warned marriage is "no protection" for their assets or property if either the husband or wife suffers from dementia or a stroke.

A county law firm is advising residents to consider applying for lasting power of attorney in case of one half of the couple loses their mental capacity.

Peter Stephens, from mfg Solicitors, has warned both married and unmarried couples should consider applying, saying too many people can be caught by surprise when joint bank accounts were frozen due to the mistaken belief that a husband or wife could just take charge.

He said: "Being married or in a civil partnership does not in itself give any right to deal with the other’s assets in the event of incapacity.

"If this happens, the account is frozen until the incapacitated account holder has legal representation, such as a legally appointed attorney or deputy.

"The only way to prevent the account being frozen is for power of attorney to be granted to the spouse before mental capacity is lost."

Mr Stephens warned couples they faced delays of many months and a costly legal process of applying to the Court of Protection to become a ‘deputy’ unless they had lasting power of attorney.

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He added: "Having to go through the Court of Protection is the last thing anyone wants to do when they are already seeing a loved one deteriorate and they just want to keep the finances running normally for them.

"It is drawn out and expensive this way because there’s an annual supervision fee to the court, annual accounts have to be prepared and it requires a security bond."

Mr Stephens said it was prudent for couples to make lasting power of attorney plans while both were well in case they lost capacity for any reason.

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that lets the donor appoint one or more people known as attorneys to help make decisions or to make decisions on their behalf.

This gives them more control over what happens if they have an accident or an illness and cannot make their own decisions.

For more information about lasting power of attorney, go to