So, what is Power of Attorney?Power of Attorney is a legal document that dictates ‘When I’m unable to take care of myself or my affairs, I permit this person to manage these for me.’
Attorney being an old French word for assign. You’re literally assigning someone (you can choose more than one person) to look after you, your finances, or your estate.
You’ll come across two types of Power of Attorney.
- Ordinary Power of Attorney – a temporary order that lasts as long as you say. It’s usually used by those who will be going into hospital for a short time, or those staying abroad who need someone to manage their property and finances here in the UK.
- Lasting Power of Attorney – an on-going Power of Attorney that stays in place until you stop the order or you pass away. Lasting Power of Attorney comes in two flavours: ‘health and welfare and ‘property and financial’.
Many believe Power of Attorney comes as part of your will – however, they’re two separate legal documents. If you’re getting your will done, speak to your solicitor about assigning a Power of Attorney at the same time.
As with drafting a will, you’ll need to be over 18 and ‘of sound mind’ when signing a Power of Attorney document. This is why everyone needs a Power of Attorney in place – you can’t assign someone to look after you, your money, or your home after being incapacitated.
Even your partner or spouse has no legal right to manage your healthcare or finances without one.
Why are people worried about getting a Power of Attorney?It’s a curious case that people a lot more relaxed about getting a will than a Power of Attorney.
We all know we’re all going to pop our clogs sometime, and so a will makes sense. But the idea of growing older, mentally and physically incapable of looking after ourselves fills us with dread. So, we end up putting off a Power of Attorney document.
If you’re looking into Power of Attorney, you might have a few understandable fears about committing to one.
You don’t want to feel powerless
When you’re granting Power of Attorney to someone, the decisions are yours. It lasts as long (or as little) as you’d like, and this timeline will be detailed in any documents drawn up by your legal provider.
You choose who will act on your behalf. So, it’s best to assign someone you completely trust and rely on, and who’s financially independent. You can’t be forced, coerced, or otherwise encouraged to sign a Power of Attorney document if you don’t agree with it.
Families can apply for a Court of Protection Deputyship, which is a bit like a Power of Attorney after the event, giving them the legal right to manage your affairs. However, they’d need to prove you’re mentally incapable of looking after yourself before this is granted.
You’re worried about losing control
With different types of Power of Attorney available, covering different areas of life, you can relinquish or retain as much control as necessary.
A ‘Health and Welfare’ Power of Attorney grants someone the power to make medical decisions on your behalf when you no longer can. This includes chatting to your doctor, selecting the appropriate healthcare, and where you should receive it.
Your attorney, however, won’t be able to demand a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order or stop you under-going life-saving treatment unless you include it in the Power of Attorney document.
A ‘Property and Financial’ Power of Attorney only has the right to manage your estate and financial affairs. And you’re legally entitled to receive regular updates on your financial situation. So, your attorney can’t hide all your money when you’re not looking.
You may also choose to grant immediate Power of Attorney over your finances and properties. This lets them take control even while still mentally capable. The choice is yours.
That way, you could continue managing your money, for instance, while letting your family worry about making sure you get the right treatment at hospital.
If there’s division in the family – for example, you have different religious beliefs to your children – a Lasting Power of Attorney will ensure your wishes are carried out. Not the wishes of others.
You’ll never, ever need one because you’re invincible
You might’ve pushed it to the back of your mind until now. Now, you’re wondering whether a Power of Attorney is really necessary. You might’ve even dismissed a Power of Attorney as ‘something for the terminally ancient’.
But the recent pandemic has shown us that we never really know what’s around the corner. That means facing up to the fact that there are a few bits and bobs we need to get in order, just in case the worst happens.
A Power of Attorney is essential, whatever age you are. It guarantees peace of mind for you and less stress on your loved ones.
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