What is power of attorney?

A common question for people who speak to us here at Future Legal Services is – What is power of attorney?

Sometimes people think that it means someone has complete control over your possessions but it’s actually more about creating a safety net should you no longer be able to deal with things.  In other words, it allows someone you trust to make the decisions you no longer can. A power of attorney authorises someone else to deal with your affairs on your behalf when you are no longer capable of doing so or no longer want to. None of us like to think of a time when we can no longer manage our own affairs, but it’s comforting to understand that there are strategies that can be set up to make appropriate arrangements for relatives or trusted companions to be allowed to make decisions for our benefit.

There are 2 types of Lasting Powers of Attorney, one that covers Health and Welfare and the other is concerned with Property and Financial Affairs. You can choose to make one type or both, however, you must be 18 or over and have the ability to make your own decisions when you make your LPA as to who you want to be your attorney and how much powers you want to give them.

It is important to set one up well before you need it, as it becomes difficult and costly to get help with your money and property if you’ve already lost mental capacity. You may appoint one or more attorneys to act on your behalf. You may choose to have your attorneys to act:

  • Jointly; where they must always make decisions together
  • Jointly and severally; they can make some decisions collectively and some independently
  • Jointly on some matters, and jointly and severally on others

With a Property and Financial Affairs LPA you can choose to give your nominated attorney or attorneys the power to make decisions about money and any property that you have. They can help with managing your bank account, collecting benefits or assist in selling your home. The LPA gives your attorney authority as soon as it is registered with the Office of Public Guardian (OPG), to make decisions on your behalf, with your permission and also making sure to act in your best interests.

A Health and Welfare LPA allows you to choose someone to make decisions about your health and personal welfare should you no longer be able to do so. You can decide to give your attorney the power to make decisions about any or all of your health and welfare matters which may include your daily routine, general and medical care, moving into a nursing home and life saving treatment, but your appointed attorney or attorneys will only be able to make these decisions once the LPA is registered with the OPG, and provided that you can no longer make these decisions yourself

Setting up an LPA doesn’t that mean you need to surrender control. Generally the power of attorney will only come into effect once it has been registered. It takes some weeks to register a lasting power of attorney, which is why it is always a good idea to get it set up early.

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