There are many different aspects of Powers of Attorney to consider. Below is a set of frequently asked questions which should help guide you through the process of setting up Powers of Attorney for you or your family member.
Do you need a Power of Attorney?
Many people think that a Power of Attorney is only necessary once they are ill or too old to deal with their affairs themselves. While this may be when the powers are actually used it is essential to have the document in place before capacity is lost. If an adult is not of sound mind then he/she cannot grant a Power of Attorney and instead a Guardianship Order may have to be sought from the court. This can take time when urgent action is needed and will also involve court fees. Frankly, everyone should have a Power of Attorney in place as you cannot tell what the future holds. One important thing to note, however, is that the decision to make a Power of Attorney must be your own.
Who can you appoint as an attorney?
You can appoint anyone to be your attorney who is solvent and over the age of 18 but it should be someone you trust and believe will be competent in handling your affairs. You may wish to appoint one of our experienced and caring solicitors alongside a family member or close friend to help ease the burden. This is an area in which we specialise and we take pride in the care we have provided to countless clients over the years.
Continuing Powers of Attorney
These authorise an individual or firm to look after your finances or matters relating to your property. Whether these powers should begin on the registering of the document, at the onset of incapacity or at another time can be specified in the document. If you wish the power of attorney to only become active when you are no longer able to manage your own affairs then a statement must be provided in the document expressing how this is to be determined – for example, on the advice of a qualified medical practitioner. What specific powers you wish to grant are entirely up to you and should be described in the document. You should try and foresee any matters which may arise and as such the powers may include but are not limited to:
- purchasing or selling property
- opening, closing and operating any account containing your funds
- claiming and receiving pensions, benefits, allowances and rebates to which you are entitled on your behalf
- dealing with your income tax
- making any alimentary payments to your spouse and/or children
- paying your household expenses
- investing your savings (what sort of investments you would prefer or want to avoid can be specified)
- paying for private medical care and residential care costs
- setting up a trust
- pursuing or defending legal action on your behalf
Welfare Powers of Attorney
This type of document grants authority to an individual to look after your wellbeing should you become incapacitated. This could be vital to have in place before an accident strikes as without it, frustrating delays can occur. As with a Continuing Power of Attorney, the powers you wish to grant your welfare attorney will be specified in the document and should attempt to cover all foreseeable decisions relating to your welfare. A few examples of potential powers could be:
- deciding where you live
- having access to information held about you by third parties
- authorizing or withholding medical treatment (this is subject to some limitations)
- taking you on holiday
Before granting a Welfare Power of Attorney it is highly advised that you take time to discuss the intricacies of how you would want the powers to be used with your chosen attorney. Of course if you know and trust the person, they may already have a good idea of your likes and dislikes but a discussion will often prove fruitful and it is also good practice to make a note of any wishes expressed.
If a Power of Attorney is not in place when incapacity strikes then an application for a guardianship order must be made to the court, usually by a family member or friend, to be appointed a financial and/or welfare guardian. The application process can be complex so many people choose to appoint a solicitor as an agent to act for them. Visit our Guardianships page for more information specifically about Guardianships.
Have more questions about Powers of Attorney? Go back to the Powers of Attorney page for help from our expert team.
Need more help for yourself or your family? Visit our Services for Individuals page for details of how our experts can help you.