What is Power of Attorney and what does it mean?A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document letting you (the donor) appoint others (the attorney) take care of your affairs should you become physically or mentally incapacitated.
This is especially important if you’re in a relationship and seeking Power of Attorney for couples, as it allows you or your partner to seamlessly take care of the other’s affairs without delay.
To set up a Power of Attorney, you must be:
- 18 years or older
- Of sound mind
Remember: a power of attorney document needs to be in place before you’re legally declared incapacitated. Make sure you plan ahead.
What are the types of Power of Attorney?Today, there are two types of power of attorney:
- Lasting Power of Attorney
- Ordinary Power of Attorney
How does Lasting Power of Attorney work?As a couple seeking Power of Attorney you’ll likely need an LPA. This lets you choose whether, when the time comes, to give your partner control over your health and welfare, your property and financial affairs, or both.
- Health and Welfare Attorney
- Property and Financial Attorney
Do married couples need a Power of Attorney?So, you’re wondering, ‘Do I need Power of Attorney if I’m married?’. The answer is an emphatic yes.
While your partner is your next of kin, that won’t automatically grant them the right to manage your affairs should you be unable to do so.
It’s wise to set up Power of Attorney as a couple – whether you’re married, in a civil partnership, co-habiting, or in a long-term relationship.
Without this legal document, it’s possible that property cannot be sold or you discover your joint bank accounts are frozen until your partner gains control through the courts. This can be a lengthy, costly, and exhausting process. One that could’ve been avoided had a POA been in place.
Think of the document declaring power of attorney for couples as a safety net; an insurance policy that gives you both peace of mind.
How do you get Power of Attorney?If you’re looking to apply for a Power of Attorney, there are four basic steps to follow:
- Choose your attorney
You can appoint more than one attorney. In this instance, you also need to decide whether they can make both independent and group decisions – known as ‘jointly and severally’ – or if decisions must be unanimously agreed, which is known as ‘jointly’. It’s also possible to include a mixture of both in your POA, allowing some decisions to be made jointly, and others made jointly and severally.
In some cases, these are laid out by the donor – you may want to stipulate that one particularly attorney may look after, say, your property, while all of them can take care of finances. Sometimes, it may fall on one person to manage the estate, with others helping as and when.
- Complete the required forms
You’ll need form LP1H to set up a health and welfare lasting power of attorney. To apply for a property and financial affairs attorney, use form LP1F.
It’s generally considered a good idea to complete both these forms at the same time, particularly when setting up power of attorney for couples.
- Notify ‘named people’
If they object to the LPA, they can raise the issue with the Office of the Public Guardian. Anyone not named as an attorney can be notified – the idea is that this offers an extra layer of protection, since ‘named people’ may be more likely to object or call out tricky subjects that those with a vested interest (your attorneys) may not.
- Register your lasting power of attorney
Expect it to take around fifteen weeks plus to register your LPA.
Can a Power of Attorney change a will?If you’re worrying about whether a Power of Attorney can make changes to your will, it all depends on your circumstances.
You must possess what’s known as testamentary capacity to alter a will.
In other words, you need to know what a will is, what your estate includes, and who might have a claim on it. You’ve probably heard the term ‘of sound mind and body’ – well, that’s more or less what determines your testamentary capacity.
Given the purpose of Power of Attorney, it’s reasonable to assume – when it comes into effect – that you no longer have the mental facilities to make these changes. Your attorney may then decide to submit a detailed application to the Court of Protection to change the will, if they believe it isn’t right, for example, if you made it a very long time ago or beneficiaries have since died (or you left no will at all).
However, the Court of Protection is under no obligation to rubber-stamp the application.
How much does Power of Attorney cost?The average prices for Power of Attorney for couple range from between £100 to £1000.
But that doesn’t include solicitors’ fees – and given the serious nature of setting up a power of attorney, and the responsibilities that come with it, for peace of mind it’s recommended to have a legal professional help you through the process.
Most solicitors offer a flat fee for dealing with Power of Attorney, though these will vary, so it’s a good idea to compare fees. Let us know a bit about you and we’ll instantly put you in touch with up to four competitively priced legal service providers, giving you get the best deal and a professional service.