Less than a quarter of people in the South East have a Lasting Power of Attorney, according to figures from law firm Irwin Mitchell.
Of more than 1,000 people surveyed nationally by the company, almost half did not have a will, with 15 per cent saying they had not talked to anyone about planning their finances in later life.
Almost 75 per cent of people said they wished family members to look after their finances if they were deemed unable to make their own decisions, but just a third had talked to their family about possible arrangements.
Only eight per cent pf those surveyed had visited a solicitor and just five per cent had spoken to a financial advisor or accountant.
The figures come at the end of this year’s Dementia Awareness Week, a national initiative to encourage people to talk about dementia and raise awareness of the support available for sufferers and carers.
More than 225,000 people are diagnosed with dementia each year with the number of people living with the disease expected to top one million by 2025.
Catherine Diamond, senior solicitor at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, who specialises in law relating to elderly and vulnerable clients, said many legal battles over wills and estates arise because of issues relating to dementia.
She said: “Our research paints a worrying picture about the lack of planning for later life financial and legal issues which could potentially cause serious headaches for families members to sort out in future.
“Failing to have a lasting power of attorney can cause a legal headache over who should be making decisions. Family and friends may dispute who is best placed to make the decisions and the court of protection could step in.
“An LPA takes away that worry and gives people the knowledge that the people they want to make decisions on their behalf will be able to in the event they are found to have lost mental capacity.
“It’s really important that people making a will or LPA speak to their family members and explain their decisions and wishes. This can avoid lengthy disputes in future as their intentions are less of a shock and people know what to expect. Our research shows that while many people are concerned about losing mental capacity in the future, and know that they would like family members to look after their assets, hardly anyone is doing anything to prepare for any future issues.
“If someone loses mental capacity but doesn’t have an LPA, big decisions about finances and healthcare may need to be made by the Court of Protection to ensure they are legally sound and deemed to be in the best interests of the person concerned.”
Region % who don’t have Lasting Power of Attorney
Yorkshire and Humber 80
Northern Ireland 79
East Midlands 78
South East 78
East Anglia 74
North West 74
South West 73
West Midlands 71
North East 66