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Power Of Attorney: What is it and why is it important?

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Like wills and funeral plans, it’s one of the few topics that still remains a bit of a taboo. Often people don’t approach the subject until they or their relatives are seriously unwell.

Talking to a parent about a power of attorney can be difficult, but it’s a good idea to set things up when they’re able to understand and make the right choices. With this done you will be able to better support and help them in the future.

In this article, we take a look at what exactly power of attorney is, who can give, the different types and why it’s important.

What is Power of Attorney?

Simply put, a power of attorney is a legal document that can allow your parent or loved one to appoint one or more trusted people to make decisions on their behalf.

There are a number of reasons why someone might need to seek power of attorney and have someone act on their behalf;

Temporary Situations
If for any reason you’re in and out of hospital quite a bit and need help with everyday tasks such as paying bills etc.

Long Term Plans
In some cases you may need long-term plans if, for instance, you have been diagnosed with a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. This means you may lose the ability to understand and make your own decisions at the time they need to be made.

Who Can Give Power of Attorney?

Anyone over the age of 18 who has the mental ability to make medical, property and financial decisions for themselves can appoint a power of attorney to another individual or group. This legal authority is called “lasting power of attorney”.

Anyone can be a power of attorney on someone else’s behalf, as long as they are nominated by the donor. If there’s more than one attorney, the donor can also decide how they want to divide the responsibility.

A normal power of attorney means that one, or more than one person, can act:

“Jointly”
Meaning they must make the decisions together, or;

“Jointly and severally”
Meaning that they have to make some decisions together and independently

You can apply online for power of attorney on GOV.UK.

The Different Types of Power of Attorney

Ordinary Power of Attorney This is the most common form of power of attorney, and covers decisions about a person’s financial affairs. It’s only valid while you still have the mental capacity to make your own decisions.

This type of POA is suitable for temporary periods of time (hospital stays) or if you’re happy for someone else to act on your behalf.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) An LPA covers decisions about your financial affairs, or your health and care. It comes into effect if you lose mental capacity, or if you no longer want to make decisions for yourself.

This is suitable for anyone wanting to plan for their future.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) An EPA covers all decisions about your property and financial affairs, coming into effect if and when you lose mental capacity, or if you want someone to act on your behalf.

In 2007, EPAs were replaced by LPAs. However, all EPAs signed before 2007 are still valid.

What happens if there’s no Power of Attorney?

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you may have assumed that your spouse would automatically be able to make decisions for you if you ever lost the ability to do so.

However, this is not the case in the UK.

If, for whatever reason, your loved one loses the capacity to make their own decisions and doesn’t have a valid LPA or EPA, then they will need to apply for a Court of Protection. You can find out more about this process, here.

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