Who can legally be your attorney?
By law, your attorney must:
- Be 18 years old plus
- Have mental capacity
These are the same requirements for someone who wants to make a Power of Attorney. You can also have multiple attorneys, although having too many can get complicated, and you’ll need to decide how decisions can be reached by the group.
But beyond these limits, you can choose anyone you like.
However, just because you can let any adult act as your attorney doesn’t mean you should.
Why is picking the right attorney important?
A Power of Attorney document is a bit like an insurance policy: you hope you don’t need it, but it’s there to protect you if you do. These documents help you maintain control if, for example, you’ve had a sudden accident or you’ve been diagnosed with an illness like dementia.
An attorney helps you make important decisions and acts on your behalf when you’re no longer able to – they carry out your instructions as laid out in your Power of Attorney.
This document gives them the legal right to do many things, such as make sure you get the right care or pay your bills.
Attorneys face huge responsibilities. It can take up lots of time, and there are strict rules about what your Power of Attorney can and can’t do. Because of this, you should carefully consider who your attorney will be.
What to look for in an attorney?
There are two different types of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), and their duties will vary depending on which one you have. Welfare LPAs make sure you get the right medical treatment and care; financial LPAs manage your money and spending.
They may also need to deal with other attorneys or the authorities if, for example, you need a statutory will.
Ask the person you’d like if they’d mind. Explain what being an attorney means. They should be completely aware of what they’ll need to do. You can find lots of information in our Complete guide to Power of Attorney.
Ideally, your attorney will also be financially independent. There are strict rules around finances, so, for instance, while they may accept payment for their time (if you allow it), they aren’t permitted to borrow money off you.
If the actions of an attorney are challenged, the Court of Protection will check that your best interests are being served. This includes seeing if your values mirror the decisions being made by the attorney.
However, this isn’t just fluffy. It’s essentially the legal requirement of acting as an attorney. That’s ultimately the purpose of an LPA. Every decision they make must benefit you. Any purchases should maintain or raise your living standards. And records need to be kept showing this is the case.
If your attorney borrowed money from you, for instance, it’s clear that this isn’t in your best interests and can’t be justified, with the court taking a dim view of an attorney who acts selfishly or takes advantage of the vulnerable.
If you do become unwell, you may find people in your life suddenly have an opinion about what you should do, but you want an attorney who is strong enough not to be swayed by other people's opinions and will put your wishes first.
In some cases, though we always hope otherwise, there can be fallings out around choices over care or finances, so choose someone who feels they can handle those situations well.
Talk to a solicitor about Power of Attorney
Because of how important selecting an attorney is, many people choose their partner, a close relative or friend, or even a professional like a solicitor or family GP.
Whether you’ve found the right attorney for you, or you just need good legal advice, it’s never been easier to start making a Power of Attorney.
Use our quick quote form to find and compare solicitors near you. All your results are tailored to your needs, so you’ll only see the best legal professionals for you at the right price.