A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you should lack the mental capacity to do so or be unavailable for a period of time. When you make a power of attorney you are known as a donor and the person you appoint to act on your behalf is known as the attorney.
It may seem depressing to think about the possibility of accident, disability or terminal illness when you’re fit as a fiddle, but if something should happen to you, who would manage your affairs? Without a power of attorney, your loved ones could find themselves facing legal wrangles and mountainous expenses, which is why it’s worth preparing for the unexpected.
In order to make a power of attorney, you must be of sound mind and in a position to make decisions for yourself.
There are different types of power of attorney:
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) – is used when a donor becomes permanently unable to handle their own affairs. The attorney is granted full control over the donor’s care, property and financial affairs and this type of document must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
Property and Financial Affairs LPA – you appoint someone to make decisions about how to spend your money and how your property and financial affairs are managed.
Health and Welfare LPA – you choose someone to make decisions about your welfare and healthcare, including where you live, how you are looked after and what treatment you receive.
General Power of Attorney (GPA) – is used when you need someone to act on your behalf temporarily, perhaps if you are overseas. Your attorney can make decisions about your property and affairs but not your personal welfare. Unlike the LPA, it becomes invalid if you become mentally incapable and it does not have to be registered.
Seek advice from a trained expert, who will guide you through the process. Co-Op Legal Services will provide you with a dedicated case-handler to assist with every element, from application to completion of the power of attorney document.
When choosing an attorney, it’s important to choose someone who is 100 per cent trustworthy and willing and capable of doing the things stated in the power of attorney document. They should be keenly aware of your wishes and up to speed on your money and medical issues. Bear in mind that this person will be entrusted with your property, home and finances. It is a good idea for your attorney to keep a record of what they do on your behalf. They will have a lot of freedom to make decisions for you, but must not gain anything for their own personal benefit.
You can cancel your power of attorney at any stage. After you die, your power of attorney becomes invalid and the legal authority of your attorney to manage your individual assets comes to an end.
A power of attorney is like an insurance policy – hopefully you’ll never need it, but it’s there to protect you and might just be worth having one day.