If you can’t make decisions for yourself because you don’t have the mental capacity to make them, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 tells you what you can do to plan ahead, how you can ask someone else to make decisions for you and who can make decisions for you if you haven't planned ahead.
The Mental Capacity Act says you have these rights:
- Your liberty can only be taken away from you in very specific situations - this is called a deprivation of liberty, and it should only be used if it is the least restrictive way of keeping you safe or making sure you have the right medical treatment.
- You may have the right to get support from an advocate in certain circumstances. This is someone who listens to what you want and can speak for you, if you want, but does not have the legal authority to make financial or personal decisions for you.
- A deputy is a person appointed by the court to make financial or personal decisions for you, once you have lost capacity to make those decisions for yourself.
The Mental Capacity Act also tells you how you can plan ahead:
- You can appoint an attorney. This is a person you appoint, while you have capacity, to make financial or personal decisions for you for a time when you have lost capacity.
- You can make an advance decision. These cover refusals of treatment only and are legally binding. You could also make an advance statement. Advance statements cover a wider range of issues and are not legally binding, but your wishes and feelings should be consulted once you have lost capacity. Mind and Compassion in Dying's factsheet has further information on advance decisions and advance statements.
- The Mental Capacity Act, and the information in this guide, will only apply to you if you live in England or Wales.
- This guide contains general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend you get advice from a specialist legal adviser or solicitor who will help you with your individual situation and needs. See Useful contacts for more information.
- The legal information in this guide does not apply to children unless specifically stated.
This information was published in January 2015. We will revise it in 2017.