Powers of attorney explained
Tracy Stainton explains powers of attorney, a frequently mentioned topic when making a will.
Power of attorney is a topic which always comes up when I’m talking to clients about their wills. Put simply, a power of attorney is a written document that gives someone else legal authority to make decisions on your behalf.
An ordinary Power of Attorney might be put into place if you have to go into hospital for a short time or on holiday. It allows someone else to deal with your day to day finances. However, it stops being valid if you lose the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself.
Some people may already have made arrangements to ensure their financial interests are looked after through an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). If so, this document will still be valid, but it’s worth remembering that it cannot be used to make decisions about your welfare. It is not possible to make a new EPA.
Around nine years ago the legislation around powers of attorney changed and a new legal authority was created: the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). Unlike the ordinary Power of Attorney, the LPA can be used if you lose capacity, for example, through dementia.
There are two types of LPA: one is the Property and Affairs LPA and the other is the Health and Welfare LPA. The Property and Affairs LPA deals with property and financial matters whereas the Health and Welfare LPA covers personal and healthcare decisions such as consent to medical treatment.
A crucial consideration when you make your LPA will the nomination of your attorney, especially if you do not have immediate family. Your attorney has to be someone you trust completely and who will have your best interests at heart.
It is important to remember that the LPA has to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before it can be used. I always recommend that the LPA is registered with the OPG straight away. If the OPG have any queries they can then be dealt with while you have capacity and there is no risk of an invalid LPA. You then have the peace of mind to know that the LPA is registered and available for use should the need arise.
Tracy Stainton is a solicitor at Burnetts in Cockermouth specialising in wills, trusts and estates and has written a free guide to LPAs. If you would like a copy, or to talk through your arrangements, please call 01900 510366 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Tracy is Head of Burnetts' Cockermouth office.