What is Power of Attorney?Power of Attorney is a legal document that says ‘when I’m unable to look after myself or my money, I appoint this person as my attorney to make decisions on my behalf.’
Your attorney acts as a ‘deputy’, representing your wishes and helping you make important decisions when you no longer can. They’re there to help you live your life – not run it.
You’ll often need one when you’re going away for a short time or if you’re diagnosed with an illness affecting your mental capacity, like dementia.
Who can get Power of Attorney?You’ll need to meet two legal standards to make a valid Power of Attorney.
You must be:
- 18 years old or over
- Mentally capable of making (and understanding) your decisions
Those are the only requirements. You don’t even need to be a UK citizen or live in the country.
Why should I get Power Attorney?Think of Power of Attorney as an insurance policy. We hope we’ll never need it, but we never know what’s around the corner.
It gives you more control over your own affairs if you have an accident or illness in the future.
You can’t appoint a trusted attorney after you’ve had an accident. At that point, if someone needs to care for you or your finances, they’ll then need to apply to for a Court of Protection deputyship – and that can cost a lot more than LPA.
What’s the difference between Power of Attorney and Court of Protection deputyship?Power of Attorney is a document that states who you want to look after you, and how they can help you live your life.
Court of Protection deputyship is granted by the court deciding should help care for you if you lose mental capacity.
Deputyship comes with certain risks.
- It’s more expensive than an LPA. Expect to pay well over £2,500, plus annual fees to renew the deputyship.
- There’s no guarantee that the person who applies for it will be appointed by the court.
- And for all that money, Court of Protection deputyship doesn’t give your carer the same authority as an attorney; they’re restricted by the courts.
With Power of Attorney in place, the transition is seamless. Life goes on as it should, without all that unnecessary costs, bureaucracy and stress.
Should I be worried about losing control?There’s a misconception that appointing an attorney means you’re suddenly powerless – you can’t even change the channel on the TV any more without permission.
Power of Attorney keeps you in control. Every decision should be made in your best interests and offer the most freedom of all possible options, even if your attorney doesn’t agree with the choice.
When making decisions for you, attorneys must always consider:
- What you would decide if you could
- Your values, morals, political, and religious views
- If the decision is in your best interests
So, they can buy furnishings and decorations for your home – so long as it maintains or raises your living standards. They can gift money – but only to friends, relatives, and charities you wouldn’t object to, or you’ve donated to before.
You should be explicit in your Power of Attorney.
You can refuse particular medical treatments, or permit access only to specific bank accounts. A solicitor will be able to help you map out what you want your attorney to be able to do (and what they can’t do).
You can start or stop Power of Attorney at any time, so long as you’re able to make decisions for yourself. If not, it’ll take effect once you lose mental capacity.
Remember: all Power of Attorneys must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. If someone does this on your behalf, you’ll be told and can object.
You might like: ‘How to maintain your control with Power of Attorney’
What types of Power of Attorney are there?There are three types of Power of Attorney.
Ordinary Power of Attorney grants temporary permission for an attorney to manage your care or finances. It’s often used when you’re out of the UK or you’re going into hospital for a short time.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) gives an attorney long-standing permission to help you make decisions over care and finances. If you want LPA, you’ll need to choose between two kinds:
- Health & Welfare LPA
- Property & Financial LPA
Choose the one that suits your needs now and for the future.
You don’t need to get both LPAs, and you don’t need to get both at the same time. It’s entirely your choice.
Remember: without LPA in place, your bank can block a joint account if one account-holder loses capacity.
What’s the difference between Health and Financial LPAs?A Health & Welfare LPA helps you:
- Take care of daily routines like washing, clothing, and feeding
- Decide where you want to live
- Receive appropriate medical care
- Buy living essentials like food and clothes
- Accept or refuse certain medical treatments
A Property & Financial LPA helps you:
- Manage your day-to-day spending
- Pay bills and taxes, savings and investments
- Look after your bank and building society accounts
- Maintain your home and business assets
- Buy or sell property
- Gift money to friends, family, and charities
- Make a statutory will if you need one but can’t make one yourself
Remember: Health & Welfare LPA starts once you lose mental capacity. Property & Financial LPA starts when you choose, or once you lose mental capacity.
Who can act as my attorney?The rules around who your attorney can be are identical to those who can make a Power of Attorney.
Your attorney must be:
- 18 years old or older
- Mentally capable of making decisions
If your attorney later loses mental capacity, they won’t be able to act as your attorney any longer.
When choosing your attorney, pick someone you completely trust to properly manage your affairs. Many people choose their spouse or partner, a close relative or friend, or even a professional like a solicitor.
What is my attorney allowed to do?Don’t worry – attorneys don’t have the power to just drain your bank account or borrow all your money. They can only act within their legal remit, and the instructions in your LPA.
An attorney’s actions can be contested by others when they believe decisions are not being made in your best interests. And it’s possible to dispute the appointment if it’s believed the LPA is fraudulent or they’re not the right person to act as deputy.
A solicitor should always be consulted if you intend to challenge or you’re being challenged over an LPA.
How many attorneys can I have?You can have as many attorneys as you like. There’s absolutely no limit.
You could appoint one person to act as both Health & Welfare and Property & Financial LPA or have separate attorneys for each. You could even appoint your whole family if you’d like.
Your attorneys will also need to talk to each other if there’s a conflict of interests. If you and your Health & Welfare LPA decide you need to move into new accommodation, your attorney would need to speak to your Property & Financial LPA about buying a new home.
The important thing, when picking more than one attorney for a single LPA, is to define how they make decisions. Your Power of Attorney needs to specify:
- Separately or together lets an attorney make a decision individually or with others.
- Jointly means all attorneys must agree on a decision.
- A combination of both is fine. You can let people make some decisions on their own and some with all attorneys together.
Remember: the more attorneys you have, the more complicated decision-making can become. A solicitor can help you choose.
Can I change my attorney?Because it’s about putting you in control, you’re free to update your LPA at any time – so long as you’re still ‘of sound mind’.
Whenever you need to change the details of your registered LPA, you can speak to a solicitor, who will help you make all the changes you need.
You can also do it yourself by notifying the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). This involves sending a specifically worded document called a ‘partial deed of revocation’ to remove an attorney if you have more than one. You’ll need to make a new LPA if you want to add an attorney, though.
You should also let the OPG know if your attorney passes away or their name and address changes. Make sure you have the proof – they will ask to see it.
Remember: you can always nominate a back-up attorney in your LPA who will take over if your current one can no longer act on your behalf – whether they refuse, become ill, or pass away.
What is the process to get Power of Attorney and how long does it take?Getting Power of Attorney is very simple – but it can take up to 15 weeks to register.
Once you know what type of Power of Attorney you want, you’ll need to get the correct forms from your solicitor (you can also find DIY ones online).
Together, you’ll go through the document, making sure your instructions are explicit, accurate, and true.
The forms are then signed by you, your attorney, two witnesses, and the certificate provider – usually your solicitor – who makes sure your LPA is willingly signed (just like when you get a will written).
Your solicitor will then send out a form to everyone you put in your LPA, just to let them know. They’ll have three weeks to raise any concerns, like if they’re named as an attorney but want to decline.
Your LPA is then registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
Remember: everyone has to sign the original LPA document. Copies or digital versions aren’t allowed. Knowledge
How much does Power of Attorney cost?LPA costs vary, but depending how complex it is, you’ll pay between £100 and £1000.
Solicitors firms will charge different amounts, usually by the hour – you can use The Law Superstore to find and compare prices of solicitors near you.
It costs £82 to register one LPA.
Correcting a mistake on an LPA costs £41.
You may be able to get a 50% discount if you earn under £12,000 or receive some benefits.
How do I talk to a loved one about Power of Attorney?Gently and openly is the best way to approach that tricky conversation about Power of Attorney. It’s not a subject we all like to talk about, but it’s an important and much-needed one.
Try to involve all those affected – spouses and siblings especially – and outline the benefits of taking action now, so if the worst happens, you’re all prepared.
With certain relatives – you know the sort! – even skirting around the issue. It’s important to reiterate that an LPA helps them keep their independence. It doesn’t snatch it away from them.
Take time understanding the benefits over to our Power of Attorney advice hub. You’ll want to convey these clearly, so you can help your loved one make the right decision.
Is Power of Attorney included in my will?No.
A common misconception is that Power of Attorney is part of your will. It isn’t.
The law sees these two separate documents. One delivers your wishes after you’re no longer with us; one delivers your wishes while you are.
So, even if you’ve named your partner as sole beneficiary of your estate, it doesn’t give them the legal right to manage your decision-making when you no longer can.
Marriage. Civil partnership. Co-habiting. None of these automatically grant your partner Power of Attorney rights. However, you can both get Power of Attorney for a couple.
It’s a good idea to make your will and Power of Attorney at the same time, as it can save you a bit of money. Chat to your solicitor to find the best options.
Do I need a solicitor for Power of Attorney?You don’t need a solicitor to make a Power of Attorney. You can make your own or buy a template, followed the correct process, pay the fees, and register the document – but it can be risky.
As a legal document, your LPA needs to be airtight and unambiguous. You don’t want your wishes overturned because it wasn’t correctly worded or failed to meet the legal standards.
For this reason, it’s best to ask a solicitor for help. They’ll be able to help you without all the headache, guaranteeing peace of mind.
Remember: To make it even easier, use our quick quote form to find and compare Power of Attorney solicitors near you.