What is a Power of Attorney and why do I need one?
A Power of Attorney is a written, legal document giving someone else permission to take actions or make decisions on your behalf, whilst you are still alive. You choose the person you want to act as your Attorney and what powers you want the Attorney to have.
A Power of Attorney (POA) is intended to ensure that your financial affairs and personal welfare can still be dealt with and protected in the event of you being unable to act on your own behalf. It is something often associated with the elderly and young people may ask – why would I need a power of attorney? However nobody knows what is round the corner.
Accidents or sudden illness can happen at any age, so it is important to ensure that someone you trust is able to manage your affairs and make important decisions about your health and well being if something was to happen to you in the future.
Once you have appointed a POA, decisions about money and property can either take effect immediately, or can be suspended until either you authorise them to come into effect or if a doctor confirms you are incapable of making these decisions. Welfare Powers (these cover decisions about health and personal welfare) only take effect when a doctor confirms incapacity.
Who can be my Attorney?
This can be anyone over the age of 18 (who is not currently declared bankrupt), a family member or close friend, but it is vital that it is someone you trust.
What if I don’t have a Power of Attorney in place?
If you have not appointed an Attorney, and were unable to make decisions for yourself for some reason, another person would, in most cases, have to go to Court to get the authority to act on your behalf (known as a Guardianship Order). This process may take a long time, is expensive and above all it can be very stressful.
How do I start?
Start by having a conversation with someone you trust to take action on your behalf should the need arise. Make sure the person is happy to be your Attorney and that they understand your wishes. Then speak to your lawyer who will arrange for the POA to be drafted and signed, and then registered with the Office of Public Guardian.