Why is It Important to Have a Power of Attorney?

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about Power of Attorney. We explain what the document is, what it does, why you need one, and when you should get one.

What is Power of Attorney?

Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets you choose who can take care of you and your finances if you become mentally or physically incapacitated. You might also grant Power of Attorney to manage your finances and property if you’re abroad for extended periods of time.

There are two types of Power of Attorney:

Ordinary Power of Attorney is temporary (you’ll specify how long it will last) and focuses on managing your finances.

Lasting Power of Attorney gives your attorney the right to manage your affairs until you revoke the right or pass away. You’ll find two kinds of Lasting Power of Attorney – ‘health and welfare’ and ‘property and financial’.

Just like writing a will, you can appoint a Power of Attorney so long as you’re over 18 and ‘of sound mind’. And, as with wills, it’s part of preparing for the future: a Power of Attorney document must legally be in place before you need it.

If you have an accident or otherwise find yourself unable to manage your health and wealth, your loved ones can’t apply for one after the fact.

You can find out more in our guides, ‘What is Power of Attorney?’ and ‘Your guide to getting Power of Attorney for a couple’.

Is Power of Attorney included in my will?

A lot of people think that writing a will includes a Power of Attorney. It doesn’t. It’s a separate legal document. You might bequeath your savings to your spouse or civil partner, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to access that money before that time.

If you’re writing a will with a solicitor, it’s a good opportunity to discuss drawing up a Power of Attorney at the same time. Appointing an attorney you trust to manage your affairs is a useful way of ensuring what’s in the will is available to your loved ones, and isn’t frittered away before that time.

So, a Power of Attorney would be able to stop your money being eaten up by fees and charges you weren’t able to pay while in hospital, pay bills and buy essentials on your behalf, and get money out for you if you found yourself house-bound.

Some people are happy drawing up a will, but avoid thinking about Power of Attorney. A will gives security to our family after we pass away, and we’re prepared for that.

What we don’t like to consider are the months and years beforehand, when we might find ourselves frail, infirm or unwell. Yet, that’s when a Power of Attorney document is most important.

Think of a Power of Attorney document as a safety net.

When should I make a Power of Attorney?

There’s no right or wrong time to get a Power of Attorney. So long as you’re 18 years old or over and mentally capable, you should aim to get one sooner rather than later.

Many think it’s a document for older people, but, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. Anyone, at any age, could have an accident or be diagnosed with a debilitating illness.

It’s also a useful document for those in the military or younger people who travel extensively, since it lets someone take care of their affairs while they’re gone.

Others believe their partner automatically gains Power of Attorney if something happens to them.
In fact, without a Lasting Power of Attorney, your spouse or civil partner isn’t legally allowed to manage your health and finances when you’re unable to do so.

When looking after your welfare, your Power of Attorney will be able to look after your daily routines, like washing and dressing you, move you into a care home if necessary, and determine the type of medical care you receive.     

Should something happen to you and you haven’t made a Power of Attorney, your case goes to the Court of Protection, who will:
  • Determine whether you’re mentally or physically able to manage your own affairs
  • Make decisions relating to your health and financial care
  • Appoint someone to the role of deputy, a similar role to an attorney

In other words, you’ll have no control over who’s looking after your finances or healthcare while you’re incapacitated.

If you’re already engaging the services of a legal expert, ask them about making a Power of Attorney at the same time.

If you’re not in touch with a solicitor yet, try The Law Superstore. Using our quick quote form, you can connect and compare legal professionals who will guide you through the process, help you find the best Power of Attorney option for you, and complete the right forms on your behalf.