Lasting Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a document which allows you to give legal permission to another person or persons to manage your financial affairs and make certain decisions on your behalf should there come a time when you are not able to do so yourself. If you sign a Power of Attorney, it may well be that it never needs to be used. However, it is a very useful "just in case" document to have.
Two important things to consider are that:
Firstly, you must understand and know what you are doing when you sign the document, and secondly, you must give serious thought about the person or persons whom you choose to be your Attorney. You must be able to trust them. You should consider whether they are likely to be capable of doing the job, both in terms of health and willingness.
The document must be signed by you and the person or persons whom you wish to appoint. Don’t worry if you have difficulty writing or signing your name… this can be overcome.
The Lasting Power of Attorney comes into operation in two stages. The first stage is when everyone signs it. The second stage is when it is registered at the Public Guardianship Office. It is only when it is registered that the Power of Attorney document can be used. Usually the registration takes place fairly soon after the signing, but it can be delayed if it is not need immediately.
Signing the Power of Attorney does not take anything from you and does not transfer money or property to your Attorney. Even after you have signed the document you can still carry on dealing with all matters yourself if you are willing and able. You can cancel the Power and appoint someone else at any time as long as you understand what you are doing. The person you have appointed as Attorney only steps in as and when required. You can ask your Attorney to do certain things for you, such as going to your Bank on your behalf if you can’t go yourself. Alternatively, if you become mentally unable to make decisions or give directions then the Attorney can do things on his/her own initiative to ensure your interests are looked after. The Attorney will need to take a copy of the Attorney document (sealed by the Public Guardianship Office) and some means of identification to the Bank/Building Society or to wherever business needs attending to.
You can appoint one, two, or more people to be your Attorney and you can put specific restrictions or conditions in the document or leave it entirely up to your Attorney to deal with whatever needs to be done. Bear in mind that there can be advantages and disadvantages in appointing more than one person.
If you do not appoint an Attorney while you are able to and there comes a point when you are no longer capable of dealing with matters yourself, then there is no alternative but for your next of kin (or someone else) to apply to the Public Guardianship Office in London (Court of Protection and Public Trust Office) to have somebody appointed to deal with matters on your behalf. This person is called a Deputy. This process invariably is more expensive and involves far more work than would otherwise be required under the Power of Attorney. You should give serious thought to having a Power of Attorney in place and you may wish to do it on its own or at the same time as you make a Will or sign any other important legal documents.
The person you appoint has certain legal obligations when acting under the Power of Attorney, and notes accompany the document when it's signed will explain certain things.
Finally, you don’t have to be in your later years before you have a Power of Attorney. You can appoint anyone at anytime for any reason…. just in case there comes a point when you need help sorting things out.
Powers of Attorney - the shorter version
Above are details of the LASTING POWER of ATTORNEY. The LPA form of Attorney is designed to allow someone to look after your affairs regardless of your physical capabilities and regardless of your own mental capacity. In other words it could operate to allow your chosen person to go to the bank or deal with your pension at your request. It could operate if you have difficulties signing documents, but still able to give instructions as to what you want. It would come into play if you had a stroke and had difficulty communicating. It could also be used at the onset of dementia, whether you were still at home or having to move into a nursing care home. It is therefore very wide ranging.
If, however, you simply want someone to be able to go to the Post Office or Building Society for you, or deal with your pension and finances generally, and the only difficulty you have is one of mobility or handwriting, then you could use as a temporary measure a short version of the Power of Attorney which is simpler, cheaper and only needs to be signed by you to be activated. The thing to remember about the short version is that should you reach the stage that you are no longer aware of your surroundings or no longer capable of mentally managing your own affairs, then the powers granted by the short version are no longer valid.
Have two Powers of Attorney!
A useful exercise is to have a short version put into place so that it can be used sooner rather than later; and at the same sign the Lasting Power of Attorney but do not have it registered at the Public Guardianship Office until the need arises. Remember, the LPA does not become active until registered, whereas the shorter version is ready as soon as you have signed it. The person who you chose as your Attorney will therefore have some means of proof that you have given him or her permission to deal with things on your behalf.
Please note that the Lasting Powers of Attorney replaced the Enduring Powers of Attorney from 1st Oct 2007. However, Enduring Powers of Attorney already signed and executed before 1st Oct 2007 remain valid.
These notes refer only to Powers of Attorney dealing with property and finance. There is a form of Lasting Power of Attorney that deals with health and welfare and is akin to what is known as a Living Will. Please ask for information and guidance if you want to know more